POTSDAM Ogdensburg Free Academy methodically fashioned three ball control drives in Friday nights wildly entertaining 28-26 overtime victory over undefeated Northern Conference champion Potsdam to claim the Section 10 Class C championship.
But OFA coach Matt Tessmer believed that a long march by the Devils with the opening kickoff, which ended at the Potsdam 11-yard line, might have been the most important of the night for his 8-1 Blue Devils.
That first drive was important because we ran the ball very well when we knew we couldnt pass because of the wind, said Tessmer after a night when quarterback Josh Liebstein (15-80 yards) and fullback Jordan McCormick (22-111) combined to run for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
We didnt score but we forced Potsdam to punt and scored on our second drive, he said. That first (drive), it really lifted the guys confidence and we really needed that. Potsdam was a very tough team.
That confidence never waivered in the face a second half comeback by the Sandstoners, who overcame untimely penalties that nullified two long scoring runs, to take a 20-14 lead with 8 minutes, 14 seconds to play.
OdenRobertson (26-136 4 TDs), who was honored after the game as the NAC MVP, sandwiched explosive scoring runs of 17 and 25 yards around a fumble recovery by Dustin Fisher. Will Coleman, who received the Don Petty Memorial Award as the Outstanding Football Player in Section 10, took a keeper to the end zone for the 20-14 lead.
OFA answered in opportunistic fashion by capitalizing on two major penalties to march 51 yards to a tying score when Liebstein pitched a two-yard scoring pass to Jon Tayler with 4:02 to play.
The resilient Sandstoners rebounded again.
Rian McFadden broke up a passing attempt for the two conversion and the Sandstoners narrowly missed on a fourth down passing attempt in end zone with 18 seconds to play.
Back came OFA in this match of iron-willed teams.
The Devils opened the overtime the same way they opened the first and second halves by driving the ball to end zone when McCormick bulled his way in from seven yards out after Liebstein found Tayler on a 13-yard pass. Liebstein followed with fourth clutch passing play of the day by tossing a decisive two-point conversion pass to Tayler in the front corner of the end zone.
But it took the games biggest defensive play of the night to finally subdue the Sandstoners who again overcame adversity. After a 17-yard touchdown run by Coleman was nullified by a clipping penalty, Robertson used a signature cutback run to score from six yards out.
Robertson got the ball on the conversion attempt but was bottled up at the line of scrimmage and thrown back by a wave of Devils.
I dont know who it was but somebody got a hold of his legs and stood him up. I just came in drove by my hips and shoulders and into him, said OFAs Kevin Goolden who was honored after the game as the Outstanding Lineman in Section 10.
Goolden was part an offensive line that emerged as high impact factor in the Devils high-scoring surge into the postseason.
Our offensive line really had a great game tonight but so did the defense. We did the best job of anybody all season tonight holding Potsdams offense down, Goolden said.
This was just a great team effort. Everybody gave 120 per cent all week in practice and in the game tonight. It feels amazing.
The Devils will look to sustain that feeling next weekend when hosting the Section 7 champion (Saranac Lake or Saranac Central) in the first round of the state tournament.
After running off 25 plays to Potsdams three, the Devils opened the scoring early in the second quarter when Liebstein found Nick Sweeney on a quick slant for a six-yard touchdown pass.
The Sandstoners blocked the extra point and pulled into a 6-6 tie when he scored from four yards out 58.7 seconds before intermission. They took the second half kickoff 60 yards to for a touchdown, highlighted by a 19-yard keeper by Liebstein.
OFA played very well tonight. They didnt make many mistakes with the ball and their quarterback had a great game, said Potsdam coach Jim Kirka. In high school football the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. It was a great high school game but we made too many mistakes. We had a great season but picked the wrong time to have our worst game.