OGDENSBURG — The amount of support that Gouverneur fans have shown for their high school football team was evident last weekend when numerous people lined Route 11 downtown at 2 a.m. Saturday to welcome the team back after a 10-2 win over Section 2’s Stillwater in a state Class C quarterfinal game in Rotterdam.
Saturday, the Wildcats (10-0 overall) will have another strong show of support when the play Section 1’s Valhalla (8-2) in the first state semifinal in school history at noon at Middletown High School.
The other semifinal features Section 4’s Susquehanna Valley against Section 6’s Southwestern at noon at Cicero-North Syracuse.
Even local rivals have shown the Wildcats support in their quest as Ogdensburg Free Academy, which lost to Gouverneur in the Section 10 Class C championship game, has made its artificial turf field available for practices for the Wildcats the past two weeks.
The 295-mile bus ride to Middletown will be special for Wildcats coach Sean Devlin, who graduated from Gouverneur in 1994.
“It’s awesome,” Devlin said. “I’m happy for (the coaches) and happy for our kids. I always say, ‘I’ll probably be back next year. I’ll probably have another chance to be here, but our seniors won’t.’ I’m happy for them. I’m proud to be part of it. I’m proud to have played football in Gouverneur and be a part of this for the first time, a final four for Gouverneur.”
Even though it was late, Gouverneur’s players weren’t surprised to come back to town to a reception that included police cars and fire engines driving through town with their sirens blaring.
“It was exciting, all those people there to support us,” Gouverneur’s Joseph Cummings said. “I was expecting it. There was talk about it. It’s pretty cool, especially with my good friends, just having fun.”
Gouverneur’s challenger for a berth in the state championship game at 6 p.m. next Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse is a team that came back from a 1-7 record last year and was blown out in its first two games this season before going on an eight-game win streak.
“They are very fast and have a couple very good wide receivers, their quarterback is very mobile and throws the ball very well,” Devlin said of Valhalla. “We are going to have our hands full with their passing game. I’m pretty confident in our pass defense. The last few weeks we’ve been tested playing Ogdensburg and Saranac Lake. We’ve had a month to work in it, and I think we are in a pretty-good spot.”
The Vikings showed how much they have improved from the start of last season last week when they beat Section 9’s Chester, 19-8, in a quarterfinal at Kingston. Valhalla opened the season against Chester and was routed, 42-22.
The Vikings, coached by Steve Boyer, rely a lot on the passing of quarterback Michael Dawson, a sophomore who was 12-for-25 for 168 yards last week, including a 31-yard pass to Sammy Mussuto for a touchdown. He also rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries and caught a 47-yard touchdown pass on a trick play.
Valhalla reached the state playoffs after a 21-7 win over defending Section 1 champion Dobbs Ferry in that title game. Dawson was 8-for-14 for 150 yards in that contest, including an 81-yard touchdown pass to Mahari Davis.
The Vikings, who are ranked No. 11 in the state poll, have scored 227 points this season and allowed 192, with 77 coming in the opening two losses.
Winning is not as new to the Wildcats, who are No. 3 in the state poll, as it has been to Valhalla this season. Gouverneur has only played in two games decided by a touchdown or less this season and has outscored the competition, 414-96. The Wildcats also rolled undefeated through Northern Athletic Conference play for a fourth straight season.
Quarterback Caleb Farr has been the team’s offensive leader. He scored a 27-yard touchdown last weekend on Gouverneur’s first offensive series and finished with 158 yards rushing on 25 carries. He enters Saturday’s game with 905 yards rushing and has also passed for 498 yards with four touchdowns.
“I felt that our defense played very good against (Stillwater),” Farr said. “We (didn’t) gain too much (confidence), because we already know we are a great team. We can’t get too high or too satisfied with ourselves because we have other great teams to go.”
Running back Cayden Stowell gained 98 yards last week on 18 carries and has rushed for 757 yards this season.