Senior Jacob Rand had 33 rushing yards on 11 rushing attempts in the VR-OL Class SS Championship loss to Joel Barlow. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Junior Grady Lacourciere completed 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards and a score while adding 32 rushing yards on four carries as VR-OL fell short of the Class SS state title. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Returning to the game’s biggest stage, the Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team did not take home the top prize. Yet throughout their campaign, the Warriors certainly showed why they are and will be a force to be reckoned with with their dominant push to the top.
After going 9-1 in the regular season and defeating Foran and Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic in the Class SS State Playoffs while allowing just 13.5 points per game in those two postseason games, the No. 6 seed Warriors earned just their second trip to the tournament. state finals.
There, they faced No. 5 Joel Barlow for the crown on Dec. 10 at Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field. Unfortunately for VR-OL, it wasn’t a championship ending to its campaign as the Warriors suffered a 61-6 defeat at the hands of the Falcons. The Warriors, who collected just four wins a year ago, finished their year with an 11-2 overall mark, which was also the Falcons’ final record.
Junior Grady Lacourciere finished the day 12 of 25 passing for 128 yards and a score while adding 32 rushing yards on four carries. Senior Jacob Rand contributed 33 rushing yards on 11 rushing attempts. In the receiving department, senior Nick Cox led the Warriors with five catches for 95 yards and a TD reception.
VR-OL drove just outside the Falcons’ red zone and attempted a 27-yard field goal to try to draw first blood of the game, but it sailed wide. Barlow then had bad luck of his own when he fumbled after an option play, which the Warriors picked up with 3:29 left in the first quarter. However, Barlow regained the ball after a scoreless VR-OL drive and went up 7-0 after a 5-yard touchdown run.
In the second stanza, the Falcons’ defense made it 14-0 11 minutes before halftime. VR-OL had a punt blocked that landed in the end zone and was run down by the Falcons. A little more than seven minutes later, Barlow made it 21-0 with another TD scamper from 12 yards out to make it a three-score game with 3:53 left before the break. The Falcons then went to the locker room 28-0 as, with 48 ticks remaining in the period, Barlow punched in another TD sprint on another offensive drive after recovering the Warriors’ opening fumble.
The Falcons picked up where they left off in the first half early in the third. At 10:36, they led 35-0 thanks to a 20-yard TD run. Barlow then added TD rushes of two and 22 yards with less than six minutes to play in the third to eventually lead by 48 heading into the fourth.
The defense came through again for Barlow in the final quarter with a 68-yard interception returned to the end zone. Later, the Falcons tacked on another touchdown with a 29-yard run with 7:12 left 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 make it a 61-6 final decision.
In the regular season, VR-OL finished with an impressive 9-1 result. Warriors beat 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 only loss came by a narrow 28-27 margin against Cromwell-Portland, which was defeated by Barlow in the semifinals 40-35.
In their earlier appearances in the Class SS State Playoffs, the Warriors first won 26-13 on the road against No. 3 seed Foran on Nov. 29 in the quarterfinals. VR-OL then defeated No. 7 Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic 26-14 at home in the semifinal round on Dec. 4.
Hill Gbunblee was assisted by coaches Brandon Woodcock, Jake Bocian, Jim Metz and Phil Cohen this fall.
The 2022 Valley Regional-Old Lyme roster consisted of seniors Rand, Cox, Andrew Yermenson, Michael Galberth, DiAngelo Jean-Pierre, Justice Glidden, Stefen Ryer, Joseph Montazella, Samuel Bourez, Ford Macadam, Adam Metz; juniors 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.