OGDENSBURG — If you had told Ogdensburg Free Academy football coach Matt Tessmer before last season he would have to start four different players at quarterback but still guide his team to a state Class C final four appearance, he would not have believed you.
But that’s exactly what happened to the Blue Devils, who saw three different quarterbacks go down at some point of the season with injuries, yet still finished with a 10-2 overall record and a 5-1 mark in the Northern Athletic Conference.
“In all my years of coaching, that’s the only team that could have gotten away with it, ever,” Tessmer said. “We had to live it. It’s easy for us to think it was under-reported, but it was incredibly difficult. To have as much success as they did, it speaks a lot about the team in general. Those four kids that had to play quarterback, each time a different quarterback came in, we were a different type of offensive team. We were flexible enough to change.
“Our defense was good. (In the playoffs) we faced Gouverneur, Saranac Central and Cambridge, three of the best teams in the state, and we gave up 13 total points in those 12 quarters. That’s a lot of defense. The offense obviously was a key factor in helping the defense keep the score down. It was totally complementary.”
All four of OFA’s quarterbacks are seniors this year and as of early in training camp, three of the four were competing for the starting position this season. The only one who isn’t is Stephen Morley, who is a running back and the fourth quarterback the Blue Devils had to use last season.
Michael Reed started the season as OFA’s quarterback and led the team to a 55-0 rout of Saquoit Valley in the season opener and a 43-0 win over Malone in week two. Reed played briefly in OFA’s third game of the season, a 22-20 loss to Gouverneur, before his season ended with a collar bone injury.
“It was very hard at first,” Reed said. “These guys stepped up and played well and I just tried to be a good teammate.”
Reed was replaced by Jackson Jones, a wide receiver who had played some quarterback in the past. He led OFA to a 32-6 win over Canton in his first start and then got off to a great start against General Brown before suffering his own collar bone injury. The Blue Devils held on to win that game 26-20.
“In the Gouverneur game, it was the second play of the game, I was not ready or expecting to play quarterback at all,” Jones said. “I did the best I could without practicing all week. I had played a decent amount the year before.”
When Jones got hurt against the Lions the quarterback job was handed to another wide receiver, MeSean Johnson.
Johnson led OFA to a 27-6 win over St. Lawrence Central after finishing the General Brown game, but then hurt his quadricep during practice the week of OFA’s second-to-last game of the season against Potsdam.
“It was really weird,” Johnson said. “I had never played (quarterback) before. It took me a little while to be able to throw more than 10 yards to a moving target. My arm hurt a lot. I had to adjust.”
The strangest part of the quarterback story came when running back Stephen Morley found out he was going to be starting a day before the Potsdam game. Morley did not even tell his parents he was playing quarterback that night. They found out when the game started and he took the field and led OFA to a 20-18 come-from-behind win. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Troiano as time expired.
The following week Morley helped OFA beat Massena 37-14.
“I didn’t really feel the need to tell (his parents),” Morley said, drawing some laughter from the other three players. “I didn’t really know what to expect, if I was going to do well or not. I was wicked nervous. In the second quarter I started to settle in and get things down.”
Johnson came back for the postseason and helped OFA beat Gouverneur 28-0 in the Section 10 championship game. The Blue Devils beat Section 7’s Saranac Central 20-7 and then upset top-ranked Cambridge of Section 2, 16-6, before falling 55-22 to Section 1’s Dobbs Ferry in a semifinal.
Last year’s experience has taught all three of the players vying for this year’s starting job not to pin all their hopes on being the quarterback.
“You have to be able to play all the positions in the summer and not get used to any one position,” Jones said. “You have to be able to adapt.”