Schuylerville head coach John Bowen likened his football team’s next opponent — Ogdensburg Free Academy in Saturday’s state quarterfinal — to a familiar foe.
With their size, balanced offense and power-running game, the Blue Devils compare favorably to Hoosick Falls-Tamarac, Bowen said.
“They’re different — they’re bigger than most teams we’ve seen,” Bowen said. “They’re most similar to Hoosick Falls-Tamarac: they’re big and physical, their quarterback can run and throw, and he’s bigger. Their tailback can pound it and their H-back can counter on you.”
The Black Horses head north Saturday for a 2 p.m. Class C state quarterfinal against OFA at Massena High School, near the Canadian border. The Horses bring a No. 3 state ranking, an 11-0 record and an 18-game winning streak into the game.
The winner advances to play either Dobbs Ferry or James I. O’Neill in next week’s state semifinal in Middletown.
Matt Conlin and Jesse Kuzmich scored second-half TDs as Greenwich beat Tuckahoe 41-20 in a state football quarterfinal game on Friday night.
All of that will be for naught if the Horses can’t corral OFA’s balanced spread offense, which has carried the eighth-ranked Blue Devils to a 9-1 record this season. OFA avenged its only loss — 29-28 in overtime to Gouverneur in Week 5 — with a 32-12 win in the Section X final. Last week, they pulled away to a 28-14 win over Saranac Lake in the Section VII-X playoff.
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“We try to be as multiple as we can be — we run the ball and throw it when we can,” longtime OFA head coach Matt Tessmer said. “Balance is what we work for.”
Quarterback Tristan Lovely is a 6-foot, 225-pound senior, a converted running back whose first exposure to QB was during the Blue Devils’ limited two-game spring season. However, Lovely has thrown for 1,045 yards and 16 touchdowns, and added another 431 yards and 11 scores on the ground.
The Blue Devils also have Drew Costello (785 yards, 15 TDs) and Andrew Loffler in the backfield. Loffler scored the go-ahead touchdown last week after a momentum-changing strip-and-fumble-recovery by Drew Piercey. Justice McIntosh and Adam Calton are Lovely’s primary receivers.
“Physically up front, they’re bigger than we are,” Bowen said. “If we don’t get multiple hats to the ball, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Schuylerville’s defense has been swarming all season. Led by the linebacking corps of Nick Abruscato, Carson Patrick and Anthony Luzadis, the Horses have allowed only 88 points in 10 games on the field. They recorded four shutouts, including a 14-0 win over tough Hoosick Falls-Tamarac.
The Horses are coming off a 26-16 win over Fonda, their third straight Section II championship. That game was primarily a defensive struggle punctuated by some big plays — big plays that either set up or scored Schuylerville touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Luke Sherman (683 yards, 18 TDs) powered his way to three touchdowns and 114 hard-fought yards.
Senior quarterback Owen Sherman — a three-year starter who helped the Horses reach the Carrier Dome in 2019 — has passed for 1,175 yards and nine touchdowns and added six more on the ground. Against Fonda, he threw for 170 yards, including two huge strikes to Otto Bolduc — a 49-yard TD just before halftime, and a 41-yarder to set up a game-sealing fourth-quarter score.
“They have dynamic offensive players and their quarterback is excellent,” Tessmer said. “We have quite a challenge ahead of us.”
“Hopefully we’ll be able to put the ball in the air with Owen,” John Bowen said. “Last week we took some vertical shots, and we’ll do that if they allow us to. Owen does a good job of taking what the defense gives him. Our offense is running the ball well — I like where we are right now.”
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.