MASSENA - The situation was intense and potentially unsettling, but very familiar.
With 2:19 to play in Friday nights New York State Class C regional football game, OFA held a 27-19 lead and Section 7 champion Saranac Lake was looking to drive for a potential tying touchdown and two-point conversion.
But this was nothing new to the Blue Devils, who had secured a victory on the final possession five times, including last Fridays 28-26 overtime win over Potsdam in the Section 10 Class C Championship game.
They upped the total to six to secure a 27-19 North Country Championship victory and a trip to the New York State quarter-finals against undefeated and number one state-ranked Section 2 Champion Hoosick Falls on Friday at 7 p.m. at Stillwater High School.
First the defense made stand as linebacker Jordan McCormick intercepted a Tristan Fitzgerald pass. Then the offense shifted to a wishbone formation and ground out the remainder of the game with Jon Rogers (7-50) running for two first downs.
We have been is so many close games this year and we just try to keep things on an even keel. said quarterback-safety Josh Liebstien who played an immense two-way role in the win where the Devils scored 27 straight points after the Red Storm raced out to a 12-0 lead in early the second quarter.
It just comes from the heart and doing what our coaches tell us.
Liebstein gained 63 of his 69 yards in the first half, pitched fourth down touchdown passes of 11 yards to Rogers and eight yards to Jon Tayler, through very tight windows, and then gave the Devils a 14-12 lead with a two-point conversion run just eight seconds before the half.
Liebstein went to complete nine of 17 passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns on the night and the Devils never trailed again.
Their quarterback had a great night. He went to the air on a cold night and made some great throws, said Saranac Lake coach Eric Bennett.
Cody Rolfes leaping catch of an on-sides kick attempt to open the second half created the field position which eventually led to a 26-yard touchdown run by Rogers and Taylers PAT upped the margin to 21-12.
Late in the third quarter, Liebstein intercepted a pass on the Saranac Lake 39 and then pitched an eight-yard touchdown pass to McCormick out of the backfield for 27-12.
Just as they did in sparking the Red Storm to a 12-0 lead, the passing of Tristan Fitzgerald (12x19-2-103) and the hard running of Trent Fitzgerald (19-102) out of a spread formation sparked a reorganization.
Tristan Fitzgerald connected twice for 22 yards with Dan Strack and Jack Martin in a fourth quarter scoring drive. A drive which culminated with Tristan Fitzgerald scoring on a quarterback keeper.
Saranac Lake was very difficult to defend because they do what they do so well. We really had to settle in but we did. We have been in a lot of games like this and guys just dont get too excited said OFA Coach Matt Tessmer.
Our offense got going and our defense did the job and got two big interceptions in the second half.
The Devils settled in after the Storm took the opening kickoff 64 yards with Trent Fitzgerald taking a fourth down run eight yards to the endzone. Early in the second quarter Dylan Gunther darted into the endzone from nine yards out after catching a 31-yard pass from Tristan Fitzgerald.
Trent Fitzgerald shows what Saranac Lake football is all about. Our guys never quit all season, said Coach Bennett of his senior who also had a game-high tackles.
We played in a very tough league and we won a championship. I wouldnt trade these guys for anyone.
Coach Tessmer echoed those sentiments for his team. Our success came from the whole group. These guys are asked to do a lot and they do it without complaining, said Tessmer.
And they have a great group of parents who do everything they can to help.
TWO-MINUTE DRILL - Jon Tayler caught five passes for 62 yards on the night and Jon Rogers caught three passes in the first half...Ty Marimon caught five passes for SL..Legendary official Vic Perry of Massena worked the sidelines and indicated that after 50 years he was thinking very strongly of retiring...OFA overcame a key injury in the first quarter when linebacker Joe Loffler injured his ankle. Kevin Goolden shifted to linebacker and sophomore Zade Lesperance moved into the defensive line to aid the victory...OFA cornerback Taylor Bouchard broke up two well-thrown long passes...Hoosick Falls is the defending Class C Championand beat Chatham (9-1) 21-8 on Friday in the Section 2 finals.