OFA, Gouverneur Meet Again For Golden Ticket
BY DAVE SHEA
Familiarity breeds nothing but the utmost respect when it comes to the football history between Ogdensburg Free Academy and Gouverneur Central School.
Both teams will utilize deception on offense and defense but as Coach Matt Tessmer says "there will be no secrets". The emphasis will be on execution.
Along with the playing history between the two teams Wildcat Coach Sean Devlin also played for OFA Coach Matt Tessmer when he guided a series of outstanding teams at Gouverneur.
The two programs will add to their gridiron chronicles on Saturday as the Wildcats host the Blue Devils (1:30 p.m. kickoff) for the third time in the last four years and for the third time in the last four years OFA will be looking to defeat a Gouverneur team coming off perfect Northern Conference season.
OFA will be looking win a fourth straight Class C crown and secure what Blue Devil Coach Matt Tessmer calls the "Golden Ticket" to the New York State Tournament where OFA has reached the New York State semi-finals three straight times with a trip to the New York State title game in 2016.
The game features two teams with outstanding offensive and defensive records which have earned New York State Sportswriters Association rankings. At 7-0 Gouverneur is ranked eighth and at 7-1 OFA stands 13th.
OFA has scored 39 points or more in every game except for a 42-14 loss in the fourth week of the season. Gouverneur has scored 42 points or more in every game except a 15-14 double overtime win over Gouverneur.
Since losing to the Wildcats the Devils have scored 38 points for more in four straight games including a potential defining 48-16 win over Potsdam on the final game of the regular season. On Friday the Devils downed St. Lawrence Central 46-12 in the Class C semi-finals while Gouverneur drew a bye.
The only personnel difference in the second game between the Devils and the Wildcats will be the presence of OFA sophomore Tristan Lovely at running back and linebacker. Since his return from injury Lovely (65-577 rushing), Stephen Morley (45-357 rushing, 17-221 passing), MeSean Johnson (69-865 rushing, 19-355 passing) and Harry Powers (27-185 running, 4-95 passing) have all made big plays as runners and pass receivers for quarterback Jackson Jones who triggers the most prolific aerial attack in Section 10. Johnson has completed 64 of 96 passing attempts, with one interception, for 997 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Johnson is also a major threat returning kickoffs and punts and against St. Lawrence Central threw a halfback option pass for a touchdown to Morley.
The running back-receivers also play key defensive roles as defensive backs or linebackers.
Gouverneur features a ground-oriented offense which also features multiple major offensive threats in quarterback Caleb Farr (67-498) and running backs Cayden Stowell (50-538), Mitchell Tyler (67-551), Joseph Cummings (23-135), Jacob Shippee (17-83) and Kyle Savage (30-223).
Farr's decision-making and ball handling directs the offense which features QB keepers, speed sweeps and counters. He has also provided an efficient passing game completing 19 of 41 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
"Gouverneur is an outstanding team. You have to play with great discipline against them," said Coach Tessmer.
That entire Wildcat rushing group is also part of a corps of linebackers and defensive backs who close quickly in support of a veteran defensive line anchored by Brock Cox.
The first meeting between the two teams hinged upon a kickoff return for a touchdown by Stowell and an interception return for a touchdown by Savage late in the second quarter after OFA cut a 18-6 Gouverneur lead to 18-14. The second half was played very evenly with Cummings scoring the only touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I think we are a much improved team and I think our line play is much better. We have improved through focus in practice," said Luc LaFlair who teams with fellow senior Carson Barney and junior Austin Jones in both the offensive and defensive lines. Another senior Mark Barr Barr is a key offensive lineman and one of the team's top tacklers in the linebacking corps along with Owen Warschol and Tristan Richardson.
Derek Barr centers the offensive line and rotates in as a linebacker and Gavin Webster and Gage Austin have worked their way into the defensive line rotations.
The leading tacklers the Gouverneur defense are: Joe Cummings, Jacob Shippee, Kyle Savage and Brock Cox.