Senior Jacob Rand recorded 33 ground yards on 11 rush attempts in VR-OL’s Class SS Championship loss to Joel Barlow. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Junior Grady Lacourciere went 12-of-25 passing for 128 yards and a score, while also adding 32 rushing yards on four carries, as VR-OL fell short of a Class SS state title. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
In returning to the biggest stage in the game, the Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team did not come away with the grand prize. Yet in the totality of their campaign, the Warriors certainly showed why they are and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with through their dominant surge to the summit.
After a 9-1 regular season and taking down Foran and Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic in the Class SS State Playoffs while allowing only 13.5 points per game in those two postseason showdowns, the 6th-seeded Warriors earned only their second-ever trip to a final state.
There, they faced off with No. 5 Joel Barlow for the crown on Dec. 10 at Arute Field at Central Connecticut State University. Unfortunately for VR-OL, it was not a championship ending to its campaign, as the Warriors suffered a 61-6 defeat to the Falcons. The Warriors, who mustered only four wins a year ago, finished their year with an overall mark of 11-2, which was also the final record for the Falcons.
Junior Grady Lacourciere finished the day 12-of-25 passing for 128 yards and a score, while he added 32 rushing yards on four carries. Senior Jacob Rand contributed 33 ground yards on
11 rush attempts. In the receiving department, senior Nick Cox was the Warriors’ leading member with five catches for 95 yards and a TD reception.
VR-OL drove down to just outside the Falcons’ red zone and attempted a 27-yard field goal to try and draw first blood in the contest, but it sailed wide left. Barlow then had a misfortune of his own, as he fumbled following an option play, which was scooped up by the Warriors with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter. However, Barlow regained possession of the ball following a scoreless VR-OL drive and went ahead 7-0 after a 5-yard touchdown rush.
In the second stanza, the Falcons’ defense then struck 11 minutes before halftime to make it 14-0. VR-OL had a blocked punt that landed in the end zone and was fleeced by the Falcons. Just over seven minutes later, Barlow increased his command to 21-0 with another TD scamper from 12 yards away to make it a three-score contest at 3:53 prior to intermission. The Falcons then went to the locker room ahead 28-0, as with 48 ticks remaining in the period, Barlow struck on another TD sprint following another offensive drive after recovering a kickoff fumble by the Warriors.
The Falcons continued where they left off in the first half early in the third. With 10:36 on the clock, they went up 35-0 thanks to a 20-yard TD run. Barlow then added TD rushes of two and 22 yards with just under six minutes to play for the third to eventually lead by 48 heading into the fourth.
Defense came through for Barlow points again in the final quarter with a 68-yard interception returned to the endzone. Later, the Falcons tacked on another touchdown with a 29-yard sprint as 7:12 remained on the night. The Warriors negated the shutout bid when Lacourciere found Cox on a 20-yard TD toss with 1:52 to play to bring it to the final 61-6 decision.
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.
For their earlier bouts in the Class SS State Playoffs, the Warriors first won on the road 26-13 facing 3rd-seeded Foran on Nov. 29 in the quarterfinals. VR-OL then took down No. 7 Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic 26-14 at home in the semifinal round on Dec. 4.
Hill Gbunblee was assisted on the sidelines this fall by coaches Brandon Woodcock, Jake Bocian, Jim Metz, and Phil Cohen.
The 2022 Valley Regional-Old Lyme roster was comprised of seniors Rand, Cox, Andrew Yermenson, Michael Galberth, DiAngelo Jean-Pierre, Justice Glidden, Stefen Ryer, Joseph Montazella, Samuel Bourez, Ford Macadam, Adam Metz; juniors of Jacob Volkerts, Shane Gagne Lemay, Lacourciere, Maxwell Nickel, Jonathan Gosnell, Joshua Richardson; sophomores in Cameron Atkinson, Thomas Troy, Peter Kuhn, Max Novak, Matthew Cooper, Liam Sarafin, Rigo Chirinos, Jovanie Molina, Joseph Medel-Herrera; and finally freshmen with Churchill Roberts, Jackson Pannier, Dickson Conor, Chase King, Jayden Vasquez, Michael Spencer, Julius Wilson, CJ Zapatka, Jack Knudsen, Reed Schmelzer, Eli Torres, Rason Cobbs, and William Sicignano.