Warriors’ Football Heading to State Final After Two Playoff Wins
The Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team competed last week in the Class SS State Playoffs and took down Foran and Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic (G-N-H) to advance to the state final. First in the quarterfinals on Nov. 29, the Warriors fought off Foran with a 26-13 score, and then hosting the semifinals on Dec. 4, VR-OL dispatched G-N-H by a 26-14 final.
The Warriors, who are now 11-1 overall and the sixth seed in the bracket, now face off for the crown against No. 5 Joel Barlow (sporting a 10-2 mark) on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Central Connecticut State University at 5:30 p.m. This will mark the program’s second-ever state championship game appearance, as the Warriors defeated Ansonia 21-20 in the 2014 Class S-Large State Playoff Final.
In the semis against 7th-seeded G-N-H (who finished 9-3 on the campaign), the visiting Yellowjackets struck on the very first play from scrimmage with an 89-yard TD rush to lead 7-0. Halfway through the quarter, the hosting Warriors struck back when Grady Lacourciere heaved a ball 33 yards into the hands of Nick Cox to knot things up at 7-7 at the end of the first frame.
At 3:05 into the subsequent second stanza, VR-OL took the advantage at 14-7 when Laccourciere and Cox hooked up for another TD toss, this time of a 13-yard variety, as this stood as the halftime score.
For the third, the Yellowjackets nabbed a turnover with an interception and then capitalized on the takeaway on the ensuing possession with an 11-yard TD rush with 4:36 on the clock to even matters at 14. The home side retook its command at 20-14 to move into the final quarter after DiAngelo Jean-Pierre took it on his own for 57 yards to the house as 2:13 remained in the third.
The Warriors then padded their lead at 26-14 in the early phases of the fourth. After VR-OL turned over the Yellowjackets on downs, Jake Rand ran the ball into the endzone from a yard away with 7:19 to play in the afternoon. From there, the Warriors clamped down on defense and watched the clock tick down to punch their big dance ticket.
To open its first trip to the postseason in five years, the Warriors opened things as the No. 6 seed in the Class SS State Playoffs and traveled to face No. 3 Foran in the quarterfinals on Nov. 29 and prevailed, 26-13.
Against Foran, Jean-Pierre started the scoring for the Warriors on a gutsy 4th down-and-inches play with 32 seconds remaining in the first. He raced down the right sideline 26 yards to the endzone and a 7-0 edge.
With 4:10 remaining before the halftime break, Rand equaled Jean-Pierre’s distance with a 26-yard scoring scamper of his own after reversing direction in his dash downfield to make it 13-0 at intermission after a missed point-after-touchdown kick.
In the third, Foran finally responded with a score after a 5-yard blocked punt return to trail 13-7. Yet VR-OL responded right back when Lacourciere notched a 20-yard TD toss to Cox to pull ahead by a dozen at 19-7 with 50 ticks left for the period.
Finally for the fourth quarter, Rand struck for offense via the defense when he took an interception 50 yards to the house for a pick-6. The Lions, who finished 9-2 overall for their campaign, added a 7-yard touchdown pass in the fourth, yet it was not enough as the Warriors advanced through to the semifinals.
In the regular season, VR-OL finished an impressive 9-1. The Warriors defeated North Branford (13-7), Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (61-12), Morgan (48-0), Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial (57-6), Capital Prep-Achievement First (28-0), Stafford-East Windsor-Somers (29-14), Computer Science and Engineering Academy of Aerospace and Science (42-6), Old Saybrook-Westbrook (46-8), and Haddam-Killingworth (28-8). VR-OL’s lone loss came by a slim 28-27 margin against Cromwell-Portland, which was defeated by Barlow in the semifinals, 40-35.