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Article Published September 9, 2019
Warriors Looking for Solid Season with Several Newcomers
Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor

The Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team returns this year after turning in a solid season that saw the squad just miss the playoffs in 2018. Historically, the Warriors have been playoff contenders for much of the past 10 years, but Head Coach Tim King’s squad will have to see some solid contributions from young and inexperienced players to make a return to the dance in 2019.

Last year, VR-OL played to a 7-2 record and came in ninth place in the Class S State Playoff standings. The Warriors had a record of 5-2 in the Pequot Conference Sassacus Division. This season, Valley will be integrating new players throughout the roster after the team graduated many of the seniors that King and company relied on last year.

“We’re going to be pretty young, but the younger guys are adapting really well,” King said. “I have a great group of older kids that realize that we have to bring these kids along to help the team. They’ve done a really great job doing that so far.”

Valley will rely on the leadership from its captains to help the team stay on the right course this year. Senior Ben Conrad is one of those captains, and he has the advantage of being a major presence on both sides of the ball.

“Ben plays both ends; he’s a two-way player. I don’t think he has a weakness,” said King. “He’s all-league defensive player, and offensively he’s done a great job, too. He’s one of the tackles, and that spot protects the quarterback and watches for the blindside. He’s a pretty sharp guy.”

Any good squad needs a captain that sets the example of how to work hard to improve everyday. No other player has the pedigree in that department like senior captain fullback/linebacker Justin Badolato. He completely remade himself to fill a need for the Warriors for the coming season, and Coach King respects that effort.

“The funny thing about Justin is that he was a starting guard last year. He may have worked the hardest out of anybody all summer long. He knew we needed a big back for short yardage, and he took that to heart,” King said. “He lost a lot of weight and worked on his speed, He made himself into a running back. He’s running the ball well and has done a heck of a job. I’m proud of him. He’s got good feet and he’s mobile. We needed a big linebacker in the middle to help hold the fort down.”

Another exceptionally hard worker is junior captain quarterback Jack Cox. The junior ended up taking quite a few snaps last season, and he’s really developed his game during the offseason according to Coach King.

“Ryan Santos was at the quarterback position last year, and he was read and run type of player. Jack has more of an arm and is better in the pocket,” said King. “He’s worked quite a bit on his mobility in the pocket. He’s really done a great job. In our scrimmage against Windham, he moved in the pocket very well. He’s really helped himself in developing a pocket presence and the ability to step around someone. That helps the linemen protect him so much.”

Another senior leader this season for the Warriors is running back/receiver/defensive back Arick Outama. Coach King thinks that his play on offense helps him anticipate opponents while he’s on defense, and the opposite is true while he plays defense.

“Arick’s a multi-purpose guy. He knows a lot of different positions, and it helps him on the opposite side of the ball,” said King, who enters his 23rd season as Head Coach for the Warriors. “He knows routes as a receiver. At the running back spot, he gets the advantage of knowing what running backs are trying to do.”

Junior Anthony Rosario will also be part of the Warriors’ stable of running backs. As for receivers, that core will include seniors Brian Rankin and Brian Funk, junior Colby Andrews, and sophomore James Marsden. Coach King believes that Valley will be able to beat their foes in multiple ways on offense.

“We have four quality receivers. They’re working hard, and we’re a passing league,” said King. “We’re going to try to balance it out this year, but if we find one strength, we’re going to go with it.”

Coach King believes that his squad’s biggest advantage comes from the traditionally unsung heroes of the gridiron; the linemen. Some of those linemen include senior Dan Harris, juniors Jeremy Rand and Kyle Metz, sophomore Tommy Rapp, and freshman Adam Metz.

“I think our strength is that we’ve got a stout offensive and defensive front. We have some newcomers, and we’ll have some fresh legs on defense. They work very well together,” King said. “An offensive line has to jell. They have to have each other back. It’s very important to be able to bond, and they’ve done a great job doing that over the course of the two or three weeks that we’ve had.”

A big part of the team’s ability to bond comes from Valley’s solid weight-lifting program.

“The weight room is huge for us especially the linemen. They were in there pounding it out quite a bit, and we did really well at the Pequot weight competition in March,” said King. “Our heavyweights carried quite a bit of that competition. They’ve just got a great work ethic.”

Coach King believes that his team can put together another strong season with some hard work and good coaching, but most of all he wants his players to enjoy their time playing football.

“Almost every week is going to be a challenge to us. We lost a lot of good athletes, but these kids are coachable kids. It all depends on how fast we can jell,” said King, whose coaching staff includes Kevin Woods (offensive coordinator), Bobby Sanchez (defensive coordinator), Phil Cohen (assistant offensive coordinator), Steve Woods (special teams/offensive assistant), Hill Gbunblee (offensive assistant), Jake Bocian (defensive assistant), Brandon Woodcock (assistant coach), and Pete Woodcock (assistant coach). “Our goals are always have a winning record, win the Pequot, get to the playoffs, win in the playoffs, all down the row. It’s also important to have some fun. It’s only four years, and it’s over. Sharing that time with the kids is important.”

In 2018, Valley Regional-Old Lyme scored wins against Ellington (42-6), Morgan (21-6), Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (13-0), Old Saybrook-Westbrook (40-10), North Branford (27-6), Rockville (33-28), and Lewis Mills (47-7). The Warriors also took losses against Cromwell-Portland (21-14) and Haddam-Killingworth (27-21).

2019 Valley Regional-Old Lyme Warriors Football Schedule

Friday, Sept. 13: vs. Morgan at Valley Regional High School at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 20: at Cromwell-Portland at Pierson Park, Cromwell at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 28: vs. Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton at Old Lyme High School at 1 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 4: at Stafford-East Windsor-Somers at Stafford High School at 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11: vs. Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial at Valley Regional High School at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 25: at North Branford at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 1: at SMSA-University-Classical at 6 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 15: vs. Old Saybrook-Westbrook at Valley Regional High School at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 21: vs. Gilbert-Northwestern at Valley Regional at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 26: at Haddam-Killingworth at 6:30 p.m.