After being shut down for almost two full quarters, Saranac Lake’s offense was rejuvenated, and the Red Storm were driving for the game-tying points late in Friday’s fourth quarter.
They got 36 yards from the end zone. And then Ogdensburg Free Academy’s Jordan McCormick made one of several big plays he had in game.
The senior running back/linebacker, who led the Blue Devils in rushing and had a touchdown reception, picked off a Saranac Lake pass, and Ogdensburg was able to run the clock out for a 27-19 victory in an NYSPHSAA Class C regional semifinal football game at Massena High School.
Ogdensburg coach Matt Tessmer said that after defeating run-oriented Potsdam in the Section X final, the Blue Devils had to get used to Saranac Lake’s more versatile offense.
“It was a tougher adjustment when we were getting spread out all over the field and they were going to their quick kids,” Tessmer said. “It was hard for us to simulate that in practice as well as they do it. And maybe (the Blue Devils) got a little bit used to it.”
Ogdensburg (9-1) advanced to a state quarterfinal game in Section II. Saranac Lake, which won its fourth straight Section VII title last week, wrapped up its season at 5-5.
The Red Storm’s offense started out strong, going 46 yards on the first possession of the game and taking a 6-0 lead on Trent Ftizgerald’s 8-yard run. Saranac Lake doubled its advantage eight seconds into the second quarter when Dylan Gunther ran 8 yards up the middle and into the end zone.
Then Ogdensburg got its offense going. Josh Liebstein hit Jon Rogers for a 10-yard scoring pass with just under five minutes left in the quarter.
The big momentum swing came right before halftime.
The Blue Devils started on their own 24-yard line, and it looked like the drive might be in trouble with about a minute left. But Liebstein’s 12-yard run gave them first-and-goal, and on fourth down, Jon Tayler made a great catch, landing in the end zone with 3.3 seconds left. Liebstein’s conversion run gave Ogdensburg a 14-12 lead at the half.
The Blue Devils had good field position on their second possession of the third quarter, and Rogers’s 29-yard touchdown run down the sideline helped them take a 21-12 lead. Early in the fourth, McCormick caught an 8-yard pass for a two-touchdown cushion.
“Those two backs — the quarterback and their running back (McCormick), they’re tough dudes,” Saranac Lake coach Eric Bennett said. “And I think they ground us down a little bit. And then when we started to come up to play the run — great play-calling on the other side — they made the pass plays when they needed to.
“So give Ogdensburg all the credit. They had a great game plan, and they came out and beat us.”
The Red Storm had been held scoreless since the first minute of the second quarter and had just 5:58 left to make a comeback. Their offense responded with a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive. Tristan Fitzgerald connected with Jack Martin on two 15-yard passes that gave the drive momentum, and then the sophomore quarterback scored on a sneak from the 2. Ty Marmion’s kick cut Saranac Lake’s deficit to 27-19.
Saranac Lake held Ogdensburg to a short, fruitless possession and then threatened to score before McCormick stepped in with the clinching play for the Blue Devils.
McCormick totaled 65 rushing yards, while Liebstein ran for 59 and was 10-for-18 passing with 106 yards and three scores. Tayler added five catches for 55 yards, plus 62 yards on the ground.
“We just had to settle in,” Tessmer said. “We had a million penalties, so that was a problem for us the whole evening. We had to overcome that. They did a great job of stopping our run at times, and then we had some opportunities in the passing game that we were able to take advantage of. And we were able to just get enough points.”
Trent Fitzgerald paced Saranac Lake with 81 rushing yards. His younger brother, Tristan, completed his first five passes and finished 12-for-20 for 110 yards and two interceptions. Marmion caught five passes for 28 yards, and Gunther grabbed three for 25.
“(Friday’s) game was indicative of how they played the whole season, particularly in the last half of the season,” Bennett said of his players. “They fought to the very end, they were mentally tough and we just came up short. But I applaud their effort. It’s been great to see them grow as young men.”
Ogdensburg Free Academy 27, Saranac Lake 19
Saranac Lake 6 6 0 7 — 19
OFA 0 14 7 6 —27
SL- Tre. Fitzgerald 8 run (kick missed), 4:03.
SL- Gunther 8 run (kick missed), 0:08.
OFA- Rogers 10 pass from Liebstein (kick blocked), 7:02.
OFA- Tayler 7 pass from Liebstein (Liebstein run), 1156.
OFA- Rogers 29 run (Tayler kick), 2:30.
OFA- McCormick 8 pass from Liebstein (pass failed), 1:48.
SL- Tri. Fitzgerald 2 run (Marmion kick), 6:02.
SL- Tre. Fitzgerald 21-81, TD; Tri. Fitzgerald 8-26, TD; Gunther 3-11, TD; Fischer 1-(-2). Totals: 33-116, 3 TD.
OFA- McCormick 17-65; Rogers 7-62, TD; Liebstein 16-59.
SL- Tri. Fitzgerald 12-20-2-110.
OFA- Liebstein 10-18-0-106, 3 TD.
SL- Marmion 5-28; Gunther 3-25; Martin 2-30; Strack 2-27.
OFA- Tayler 5-55, TD; Rogers 3-28, TD; Denny 1-15; McCormick 1-8, TD.
OFA- Liebstein, McCormick.
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