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Article Published December 2, 2019
Warriors Reclaim Principal’s Cup from H-K
Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor

The Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team squared off against Haddam-Killingworth (H-K) in the 33rd annual battle for the Principal’s Cup and notched a 20-2 victory versus its division rival on Nov. 26. With the win, VR-OL regained possession of the Principal’s Cup after losing to H-K last year. Head Coach Tim King’s squad finished its season with an overall record of 5-5 and went 4-2 in the Pequot Conference Sassacus Division to come in third place.

VR-OL faced the Cougars on a rainy night that yielded quite a bit of mud at H-K High School. The Warriors opened up the game with an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Brian Rankin to take a quick 6-0 lead. Later in the first quarter, the Warriors took a sack in the end zone for a safety as the Cougars cut it to 6-2.

In the second quarter, junior quarterback Jack Cox connected with DiAngelo Jean-Pierre for a 10-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 13-2 after a successful extra point kick from senior Brian Funk. Following a scoreless third quarter, Jean-Pierre threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Rankin in the fourth, and Funk’s PAT put a bow on the Warriors’ 20-2 victory.

Coach King was happy to see his team get the win and play a relatively error-free game following a tough loss to H-K in 2018.

“We got the cup back. That’s always nice. Last year, we had two touchdowns called back, and that’s the difference of the game. We had too many turnovers last year. This year we were pretty clean. We had just the one turnover with the fumble,” said Coach King. “The officiating was great. They let the guys play. The field was a bit of a swamp, but it was fun. It was just a good old-fashioned mud sloppy game.”

Coach King felt that his squad turned in an outstanding effort in the victory. This year has been a challenge for the Warriors in dealing with injuries to key players that moved other athletes out of position to fill the holes in the lineup. Rankin was one of the players that Coach King lost for a portion of the season, and with his return, everyone saw how effective a team the Warriors could be when firing on all cylinders. Rankin’s opening salvo made that apparent immediately.

“We’ve had Rankin back and healthy since the game against SMSA. That’s when we started getting everybody healthy, and that’s why we started playing our best football,” said Coach King. “We started getting our timing back and then we got on a three-game winning streak. It’s a shadow of what could have been if we stayed healthy all year.”

The silver lining whenever injuries rear their head is that teams have an opportunity to find contributors deeper in the roster that wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to play. Jean-Pierre was one of the players who stepped up his game when the Warriors needed him, and he showed how much he can impact a game with his touchdown late in the second quarter.

“We got that touchdown with no time on the clock headed into halftime. We were up 6-0, and we got the ball back with two minutes left in the half. We drove the field and with four seconds on the clock, Jack dropped back and threw a perfect ball to Didi in the corner of the end zone,” Coach King said. “He’s a well-rounded player, and he’s only going to be getting better. He’ taken some licks this year and popped back up. Durability is a huge thing for us because we’re a small school. Didi hasn’t missed a single game or practice.”

Cox also proven an integral member of the squad in a premier position for the Warriors. Cox had to spend some time sidelined, but he was still able to clear significant yards passing this year. That only bodes well for next season, and his absence helped the Warriors find some understudies for the junior for next season.

“Jack missed four games, and that’s quite a lot of games,” Coach King. “Still, he broke the 1,000-yard mark for close to 1,300 yards with only about six games to his credit. That’s not too bad at all for someone in that position.”

In addition to time receiving and as a running back, Jean-Pierre spent some time at QB in certain sets as did sophomore James Marsden. The two connected in the final play of the game to seal the deal for VR-OL.

“The game wasn’t necessarily in hand at that point. Two scores and they’re right back in it. There were about six minutes left in the game, and we were trying to run some clock and get another one in the end zone,” said Coach King. “You never know. You can put 28 points on the board in the quarter. That was a really big touchdown. We ran it on a jet-pass play with DiDi running the jet and throwing the ball.”

Earlier, the Warriors earned a 49-14 home win against Gilbert-Northwestern. Coach King thought that the victory served as a great primer to what the Warriors wanted to do in the final game.

“The game against Gilbert-Northwestern was a good win in terms of getting back on track. We knew if we could keep everyone healthy in the last three games, we could run the table,” said King. “We played well against Saybrook. Then at Gilbert we drove the field and punched it in. Our defense covered a bunch of fumbles in that game too.”

In the end, the Warriors 5-5 record shows tremendous promise in terms of the future of the program. Coach King can’t wait to see what this squad can do after this trial by fire for many of his younger athletes.

“If we’re healthy, we can play with anybody. Going 5-5 on the year sets us right into having a good offseason staying focused. We have a lot of kids coming back. The group that played they have a lot of experience,” King said. “Some of the younger kids really stepped up. A lot of the young kids got their feet wet on the field. It won’t be a total shock playing the varsity next year.”

• The Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team’s roster featured seniors Justin Badolato, Jean-Luc Bolduc, Ben Conrad, Andrew Cravin, Salvatore D’Arena, Brian Funk, Daniel Harris, Jeffy Joshy, Callum Miller, Jeremy Montazella, Arick Outama, and Brian Rankin; juniors Colbe Andrews, Weston Belisle, Tommy Burch, Hunter Collins, Jack Cox, Charlie Crilly, Axel Cruz, Kyle Metz, Colin Michaud, Jeremy Rand, Anthony Rosario, and Carter Tiezzi; sophomores Mason Bagwell, James Beckman, Jacob Chomicz, Mason Drew, Race Greenawalt, Samuel Ibbitson, Joseph Kuhn, Ian Mackenzie, Michael Marino, James Marsden, Samuel Mullaney, Tommy Rapp, Duncan Rider, Matthew Snyder, and Daniel Stack; and freshmen Jeremy Arnum, Samuel Bourez, Jack Bowe, Nick Cox, Leif Duval, Michael Galberth, DiAngelo Jean-Pierre, Kevin King, Ford Macadam, Adam Metz, Joe Montazella, Jacob Rand, Eli Ryan, and Andrew Yermenson.

• Tim King finished his 23rd season as head coach of the Warriors. King’s coaching staff features 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).

• The Warriors posted wins versus Morgan (23-6), Cromwell-Portland (21-0), Old Saybrook-Westbrook (35-12), Gilbert-Northwestern 49-14), and Haddam-Killingworth (20-2) this season. Valley-Old Lyme took losses against Coginchaug/East Hampton/Hale-Ray (39-14), Stafford-East Windsor-Somers (21-7), Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman (28-14), North Branford (35-28), and SMSA-University-Classical (18-13).

• With this year’s Principal Cup game victory, Valley-Old Lyme now leads the all-time series with Haddam-Killingworth by a 25-8 margin.