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OFA looks to field by school finale

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Postseason football is its own motivation.

OFA Assistant Coach Tony Williams said it with emphasis on Friday after OFA downed Gouverneur in regular season finale: “Its the playoffs boys, you either win or you are done”

The second-seeded Blue Devils, who clinched a 7-1 second place finish in the NAC with a 40-22 win over the Wildcats, will host third-seeded Canton (1-5) on Friday night in the Class C semi-finals of the Section 10 Tournament.

With a victory the Devils will advance to the Class C finals against either top-seeded and undefeated NAC Champion Potsdam or fourth-seeded St. Lawrence Central.

The Devils will have some historic motivation for Friday’s game playing the final game on the gridiron at Alton W. “Slim” Elliott Memorial Athletic Complex. Starting next fall OFA football games will be played on an all-weather turf field which is now taking shape behind the Golden Dome.

Commonly referred to as the “field behind the school” the field at Elliott Complex has been the home turf for OFA football since 1966 and has hosted a period of sutained excellence which began in the early 1970s.

“That field certainly has seen a lot of history,” said Ron Johnson who enjoyed an outstanding playing career on the field behind the school and later succeeded his high school coach Brian Wade as OFA’s head coach. Johnson, who began his association with OFA football as a youngster when he caught football for kickers Pete and Charlie Gogolak who went to NFL careers, now serves as President of the Ogdensburg City School District’s Board of Education.

The Devils’ era of excellence on the field behind the school began under Head Coach Mike Valley in the 1970s.

Present Head Coach Matt Tessmer, and his assistants Tony Williams, Charlie McCormick and Brett Monnat, will be looking to guide a fitting finale for the field against a Canton team which the Devils defeated on the opening night of the regular season.

But the respect they hold for Coach Austin Wheatfalls’ Golden Bears, who have played with low numbers and without a home field all season, has been ingrained in their players.

“Canton has done an outstanding job holding things together,” said Tessmer.

“Their quarterback (Hunter Yerdon) is very athletic, they have a tough running back (Austin VanBibber), their tight end (Cole Zeller) is a very good target and their freshman flanker (Louden Porter) has had a very good year.”

The Bears, who downed St. Lawrence Central on Sept. 27 to post their program’s first win since 2010, have scored 30 points in last two games in losses to Malone and then Tupper Lake. VanBibber (14-45) scored on runs of 33 and 66 yards against Tupper Lake and Yerdon ran for two scores and completed eight of 14 passes. Zeller (4-66) and Porter (3-41) combined for seven catches.

OFA, which ranks second in the NAC in points at 217 and fourth in points allowed at 164, will be led into the postseason by seniors Jordan McCormick, Jake King, Taylor Bouchard and junior Nolan Rufa for their efforts in the victory over Gouverneur.

McCormick returned to full duty from injury and teamed with quarterback Josh Liebstein in a 1-2 rushing combination which anchored an extremely efficient offensive outing. King was honored as the Defensive Player of the Week for a second straight week with a outstanding night at tackle. King has developed into the leader of the defensive line as fellow senior, center Zach Barr, became the leader of the offensive line

Bouchard was honored as the Hard Worker of the Week for an outstanding week of practice which led to significant contributions on offense, defense and special teams. Rufa was recognized as the week eight captain for his two-way leadership at linebacker and in the offensive line.

OFA OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing: Jordan McCormick 77-661, Josh Liebstein 51-334.

Passing: Josh Liebstein 36x63-3-493 10 TDs, Joe Dalton 29x55-3-419 3 TDs.

Receiving: Jon Tayler 18-248, Nick Sweeney 16-173, Jon Rogers 10-184.

Scoring: Liebstein 7 TDs 3 conv - 48 points, Nick Sweeney 6 TDs - 48 points.

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