Warriors Striving to Have Fun While Winning on the Gridiron
The Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team is entering the 2022 season with a roster full of experienced seniors. Now in his second year as head coach, Hill Gbunblee is looking for the Warriors to rely on those seniors and compete with intensity every time they hit the field this fall.
VR-OL’s athletes have spent their summer participating in lifting and conditioning drills. However, this year’s regimen was a little different than in previous seasons. The Warriors took part in beach workouts and attended a passing league at Daniel Hand High School, among other activities. Coach Gbunblee wanted his players to gain new experiences and bring a different type of energy to the gridiron this season.
“We’re trying to introduce new things. We’re trying to get our kids some new competition. We wanted to inject some new energy into things,” Gbunblee said. “It has gone well. The kids have responded well so far.”
The VR-OL football squad is coming off of a season that saw the team finish with an overall record of 4-6. Entering the 2022 campaign, Coach Gbunblee said that the Warriors have adopted the mantra of, “Unhook the trailer.” Gbunblee said that his players are going “full speed ahead” as they aim to focus on their strengths and improve upon last year’s results.
Along with all the tackles and touchdowns, one of Coach Gbunblee’s main goals is to make sure that each player the team has fun this year. Gbunblee wants everyone on the roster to enjoy their time together on the field as the Warriors pursue a successful season.
“We want to maximize their ability to have fun, give them all the tools they need to execute on the field. The way you have fun is by beating other teams, winning. No one has fun losing,” said Gbunblee said. “We have to have fun. We have to enjoy this. It’s fleeting. It can be taken away from you from a drop of a dime. Whatever we can do to increase the ability to have fun is how we’re going to approach things.”
This season, Old Lyme junior Grady Lacourciere will be serving as the Warriors’ starting quarterback. Lacourciere was the JV quarterback last year before making the jump to varsity at the end of the season. As Lacourciere now steps into a full-time varsity role, Coach Gbunblee believes that he has all the talent and leadership abilities to succeed as the team’s QB.
“He has great leadership skills. He has done a really good job of being highly coachable,” said Gbunblee of Lacourciere. “He’s very intelligent and instinctive about picking up the offense and gathering the guys.”
Lacourciere’s receiving corps will be led by senior DiAngelo Jean-Pierre. Gbunblee said that Jean-Pierre is perennially one of the best players in the Connecticut, stating, “Name any superlative, he’s got it.” Between Jean-Pierre’s explosive play and high football IQ, Gbunblee expects the senior receiver to play a pivotal role in the Warriors’ offensive attack.
Fellow seniors Nicholas Cox and Andrew Yermenson are joining Jean-Pierre in the receiving corps. Yermenson fills the role of possession receiver for the Warriors and will be counted on to help move the chains. Coach Gbunblee said that Cox “has it all” and is going to fill numerous roles on offense for VR-OL.
The Warriors are being led by seniors Adam Metz and Samuel Bourez on the offensive line. Coach Gbunblee said that Bourez is the strongest player in the Pequot Conference and that his superior strength is complemented by his excellent work ethic. Gbunblee added that Metz is another strong player who knows how to use his size to stop opposing defensive linemen.
Each of the Warriors’ offensive stalwarts will also be playing a major role on the defensive side of the ball. Jean-Pierre and Yermenson are defensive backs, Metz and Bourez will play on the defensive line, and Cox will hold a hybrid role as a both a linebacker and a safety.
Coach Gbunblee knows how much the Warriors will be leaning on their senior leaders this season. After his athletes endured some hardships in recent years, Gbunblee wants to see his seniors go out on top in 2022.
“We’re very heavily senior led. We’re lucky to have that. These guys have put blood, sweat, and tears into this program,” Gbunblee said. “Missing that year due to COVID and then having some games last year where we couldn’t close it out was gut-wrenching,” Gbunblee said. “I want this year to be memorable for these guys. We want to maximize every opportunity to let these guys go out on top.”
VR-OL will be playing a few scrimmages before the team opens its season with a road game against North Branford on Friday,
Sept. 9. When the Warriors step on the field, Coach Gbunblee wants to see them compete with the same focus and intensity that they’ve displayed all summer. As his team plays through the 2022 campaign, Gbunblee is looking for the Warriors to prove how good they can be and have a whole lot of fun while doing so.
“It’s going to take coming together and understanding that each person is a very intricate part of the chain. We have come together really well during the offseason with that core group of seniors being the leaders,” said Gbunblee. “For us to be successful, we need to maintain that focus and never lose sight of the fun intensity. Be relentless, be focused, but have fun.”