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OFA faces challenge of number one Hoosic Falls

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After OFA defeated Saranac Lake 27-19 on Friday in the North Country (Section 10-7) Class C Football Championship game, Coach Matt Tessmer said to his team “there is no easy way to get to Stillwater.”

He was speaking a little about the bus ride to the Stillwater which is located east of Saratoga Springs off Route 87 and a lot about what it takes to reach the quarter-finals of the New York State Tournament.

The Devils’ got there by getting contributions from any number of players and by getting better each week. Jordan McCormick (FB-LB), Josh Liebstein (QB-DB), Jon Tayler (WR-DB, Kevin Goolden (OL-DL-LB) and Jake King (OL-DL) are the only players who start both ways.

“These guys have improved so much over the course of the season and it really takes the whole group to get this far,” says coach Tessmer referring to the players, coaches at the Varsity JV, Modified and Pee Wee level, the support staff, parents and family, the school district and the community as a whole.

When Liebstein suffered a foot injury earlier the season freshman Joey Dalton stepped in threw for 333 yards and three TDs in come-from-behind wins over Tupper Lake and Massena. When offensive lineman Nathan Rishe suffered a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game, King answered the bell and became part of an extremely efficient offensive unit.

Liebstein returned to direct that offense to five straight high-scoring wins featuring sustained ball control drives.

The regional win over Saranac Lake reflected the season.

The Devils overcame a 12-0 deficit against Saranac Lake and the loss a key defender when linebacker Joe Loffler suffered an ankle injury in the first half. Goolden switched to linebacker, sophomore Zade Lesperance moved into the defensive line and the Devils methodically scored 27 straight points with Liebstein throwing three touchdown passes and Jon Rogers catching a TD pass and running for a third quarter score. In the second half , the Devils used a leaping reception of an onsides kick attempt by Cody Rolfe to tilt the field position balance, countered SL defensive adjustments and in the fourth quarter they denied a Red Storm comeback.

But once again nothing came easy.

Liebstein’s two first quarter TDs, to Rogers and Jon Tayler, came on perfectly timed fourth down throws through tight coverage windows and just ahead of blitzing linebackers.

And there is certainly no easy way to get past the site of Stillwater as the OFA program looks to get its first win ever against a Section 2 champion.

Friday night’s game pits the 9-1 and number 10 state-ranked Blue Devils against 10-0. top-ranked and defending state champion Hoosick Falls which has won 50 straight games against Section 2 opponents.

Like all teams still playing football in the second weekend in November, Hoosick Falls has recorded its share of high-scoring wins. But in the Section 2 title game, the Panthers’ defense dominated the spotlight against a Chatham team which entered the contest undefeated scoring 42 points or more in every game.

The Panthers allowed Chatham’s only touchdown and in the final two minutes, recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes in a 21-8 win.

They capitalized of turnovers to score three second quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Garrett Wight (14x22-0-137) threw touchdown passes of nine and 12 yards to Connor McCart and scored on an eight run.“They (Hoosick Falls) play the same kind of offense that Saranac Lake does and they are very good. The numbers speak for themselves,” said Tessmer.

“We just have to do what we do and have a good game.”

OFA will be looking to beat an undefeated team for the second time in the current postseason.

The first came in a 28-26 overtime win over Potsdam in the Section 10 Class C title game. The Devils are approaching Friday with the same attitude. Co-Captain Kevin Goolden said it best as left the Golden Dome and headed out to practice on Tuesday and let out a yell “It’s going to be fun.”

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