OGDENSBURG — Few Section 10 programs in any sport can match the state-wide success of the Ogdensburg Free Academy football team in recent years.
The Blue Devils, who finished with a 10-2 overall record last year, and a 5-1 mark in Northern Athletic Conference play, ended their season in the state Class C semifinals with a 55-22 loss to Section 1’s Dobbs Ferry.
In 2016, OFA reached the state championship game before losing 39-34 to Newark Valley.
With a talented core of returning players this year it’s natural to wonder how much OFA can achieve in the 2019 season.
“They can learn from last year, but each year is different, each team is different,” said Blue Devils coach Matt Tessmer. “The way that we won last year won’t be the way we win this year, just by the nature of different type of athletes, different kids. We do have a lot of good players returning, but we have only three returning starting members of our defense, and our defense was a big part of our success.
“We try to look at it as a work in progress and we are always building. All the people from the past are part of the foundation of anything that we achieve. We try to include anybody who has ever been a part of the team as a factor in any success that we have. That’s just the way we look at it.”
OFA usually features a balanced team. The Blue Devils often score 30 or more points in a game yet have no players who put up large offensive numbers individually.
“Often times we’ve had that in the past where we have a balance attack in the sense that we may not have a player that has stats that are gaudy, or leap out to people, but we may have three or four players with really nice stats and spread the ball out that way.”
OFA’s offensive philosophy paid dividends last year when the team saw three different starting quarterbacks get injured, finally relying on running back Stephen Morley to close out the regular season at the position.
Three of those four, Michael Reed, Jackson Jones and MeSean Johnson, are competing for the starting spot this fall.
“That part is yet to be determined,” Tessmer said. “What that looks like week one against Massena, might not be what it looks like when we are in the playoffs. I do have three guys I know I can win with.”
Reed was OFA’s quarterback two years ago and started last year before being hurt in the third game of the season.
“He does some good things for us,” Tessmer said. “When he was a sophomore he completed 60 to 65 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and five (interceptions). Before he was injured his running was improving. He brings a good balance between ability to throw and run.”
Jones inherited the quarterback position when Reed was hurt and then Johnson took over when Jones was hurt. Both were playing wide receiver before taking over as quarterbacks.
“Jackson is really smart and has great leadership skills,” Tessmer said. “Jackson knows the offense inside and out. He makes great decisions and he has a great arm. MeSean is an all-around great athlete who is very unselfish. He is able to distribute and run the ball. He’s a tremendous game manager. You have a talk with MeSean early in the week about how we are going to attack a team on a broad scale and that’s the plan he executes.”
Because OFA has so many experienced quarterbacks, they can throw off the opposition this season.
“Those guys play multiple positions, we can easily have all four of those quarterbacks on the field at the same time and we’ll let people worry about which one is playing quarterback,” Tessmer said.