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All-North NAC MVP: Liebstein led multi-faceted OFA team

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OGDENSBURG — On a team that received so many contributions that led to a berth in the state Class C quarterfinals, Ogdensburg Free Academy quarterback/defensive back Josh Liebstein emerged as a symbol and leader.

A three-year starter at wide receiver, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Liebstein shifted to quarterback this season, quickly mastering all the run-pass intricacies of the Blue Devils’ spread offense and expertly made option reads.

Despite missing two-and-a-half games with a foot injury, he completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 865 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran elusively and with power, gaining 644 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. Liebstein scored so frequently on the keeper behind linemen Kevin Goolden and Nolan Rufa teammates called them the “touchdown factory.”

For his multi-dimensional leadership, Liebstein is the Northern Athletic Conference MVP for the Times’ All-North team.

His evolution as a quarterback also fulfilled a vision that coach Matt Tessmer saw in Liebstein as a freshman.

“I wanted Josh to work at quarterback as a freshman but he just didn’t want to,” Tessmer said. “The big thing with Josh is that he has a great football IQ and when you come down to it our team did, too, as a whole.”

After the departure of two-year starter Nate Angel, OFA knew there was a hole to fill at quarterback. Liebstein, Jordan McCormick and Joey Dalton worked at the position over the summer and then Liebstein took hold of the starting job.

When Liebstein and fellow co-captains McCormick and Jon Tayler all returned from physical problems for the sixth game of the season, the intact Blue Devils developed one of most diverse offenses in recent NAC history.

Five players scored six touchdowns or more. Liebstein and wingback Jon Rogers each posted 10.

Dramatic developments in the offensive and defensive units fueled a six-game winning streak. It was a surge that saw OFA avenge its only regular season loss by downing previously unbeaten Potsdam 28-26 in overtime in the Section 10 title game, rally from a 12-0 deficit to best Section 7 champion Saranac Lake 27-19 and then stay with top-ranked Hoosic Falls until the final seven minutes of a state quarterfinal loss. After the game Liebstein was honored as OFA’s Outstanding Offensive Player.

“Playing wide receiver for three years really helped me play quarterback because I knew the pass patterns and the offense as a whole very well,” said Liebstein, who passed a season-high 127 yards against Hoosic Falls.

“Our offensive line was really good and I would just follow the linemen around the corner on the keeper,” he said. “Our backs ran very hard and our receivers were excellent; they always came back to me when I had to scramble and they really blocked well.”

Liebstein takes pride that he and fellow co-captains in McCormick, Tayler and Goolden could lead the OFA program back to a place of prominence after a disappointing 2012 season.

“We didn’t want a repeat of last year and we are so proud of the way everyone worked so hard and got it done,” said Liebstein who expects Dalton to continue the quarterback legacy for the next three years.

“Joey Dalton is going to do a great job. He throws and runs the ball very well and he is going to get bigger and stronger,” he said.

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