OGDENSBURG — Big plays, including key punt returns from senior MeSean Johnson, helped the Ogdensburg Free Academy football team open the season with a 29-6 win over Massena in a Northern Athletic Conference game Friday night.
The game was closer than the final margin may indicate and Johnson was one of the factors on opening night for OFA, returning three punts for 73 yards, rushing eight times for 61 yards and catching a two-point conversion. He also recovered a fumble in Massena territory.
Johnson set up OFA’s first touchdown by returning a punt 36 yards to the Massena 23 yard-line late in the opening quarter. Three plays later, the Blue Devils took the lead for good on a 6-yard run from Tristan Lovely followed by quarterback Jackson Jones connecting with Johnson on the two-point conversion with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first quarter.
“At first I thought I could bust it because I saw a guy outside,” Johnson said of his punt return. “There were not a lot of people there and I ended up running into my own guy. I think it’s fun because I can get open field a lot and it makes it easier to bust open a play. I just try to get as many yards as I can so my team can get a touchdown on every drive.”
Massena, which fooled OFA’s defense many times during the game with a deceptive rushing game, responded to OFA’s score by mounting a 16-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring run from quarterback Dominic Monacelli.
The Red Raiders attempted to tie the game on the two-point conversion attempt but it was intercepted by OFA’s Michael Reed.
OFA answered Massena’s score with a drive of its own late in the first half that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run to the corner of the end zone by Johnson, giving OFA a 14-6 lead with 2:29 left in the opening half.
The drive was aided by two long runs from Lovely, 10 and 16 yards, and a 13-yard pass from Jones to Stephen Morley.
Massena started with the ball in the second half but fumbled on its own 38, with Johnson recovering. OFA failed to move the ball on the next series and Massena moved to the Blue Devils’ 35 before a fourth-down attempt was thwarted with a tackle for minus-11 yards by OFA’s Tristan Richardson.
“I thought we made some first-game mistakes, but every team makes first-game mistakes,” OFA coach Matt Tessmer said. “I was happy with the way we came out in the second half. I thought the defense played well in the second half. We made a couple plays on offense, and we started playing a little better.”
OFA put the game out of reach on the following series with featured a 35-yard touchdown run from Johnson to extend the lead to 22-2 with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
“It was all together a really-good team effort,” lineman Luc LaFlair said. “We still have some things to work on, but overall I thought it was good. There is just a lot of small stuff we need to tweak and work on.”
Massena fumbled near midfield on the second play after the ensuing kickoff, with Morley recovering.
Five plays later, OFA added its final touchdown on a three-yard run by John Powers with 11:46 left. The play prior to Powers score was a 36-yard pass from Jones to Powers.
Jones won a preseason competition to be OFA’s quarterback and completed 5-of-8 passes for 68 yards. Lovely gained 75 yards rushing on 14 carries, and Morley caught three passes for 30 yards.
“We moved the ball well, our line did well and the running backs hit the holes hard,” Jones said. “We moved the ball up and down the field. We have a lot of things we need to work on. Our first two drives (in each half), we didn’t come out like we needed too, to score.”
Zack Goolden led Massena with 72 yards rushing on 26 carries and Monacelli added 69 yards on 11 carries.