Defense helps Valley/OL advance to Class S semis

Valley Regional/Old Lyme quarterback Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn finds some running room in the rain during the Warriors' 14-12 win over Rocky Hill in the Class S quarterfinals Tuesday night.

Deep River - After the national anthem and before the opening kickoff of Tuesday's CIAC Class S quarterfinal game, Valley Regional/Old Lyme coach Tim King got some surprise good news: Colin Devlin could give it a go.

Devlin sprained his ankle midway through the season and reinjured it last week, after moving from tight end to tackle because of injuries.

Devlin, an Old Lyme senior, came back and made himself a mainstay in Rocky Hill's backfield and helped the third-seeded Warriors to a 14-12 win over the Terriers. Valley (10-1) will play No. 2 Holy Cross of Waterbury in Saturday's semifinals at Meriden's Falcon Field (2 p.m.)

It's the second consecutive year that the Warriors won a quarterfinal home game at Blythe Field.

"The last time we lost here was two years ago," King said. "We take pride in protecting our home field. Having the crowd behind us and everybody up there, the smell of the hot dogs, it's always nice to play at home."

King got the okay from the training staff just before kickoff to have Devlin give it a try. He was held out of the first snap, but played on defense the rest of the way, and Valley relied heavily on its defense in the second half.

Valley quarterback Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn threw for one touchdown and ran for another, but said defense won the game for the Warriors.

Rocky Hill (8-3) moved the ball inside the Valley 10-yard line on its opening drive, but had to settle for a field goal. The Terriers had four first downs on the drive, but didn't get another for the rest of the first half.

"We were just getting some nerves out," said Fairfield-Sonn, who ran for 94 yards. "A lot of these guys are starting a playoff game for the first time. Some of the guys rallied everyone together and we held them."

Valley had just one first down on its first three possessions, but took the lead when Fairfield-Sonn went 35 yards on a keeper on third-and-4 midway through the second quarter.

Rocky Hill's Chris Young went 56 yards on the ensuing kickoff, but Jordan Saintil made a touchdown-saving tackle.

"That may have been the play of the game," King said. "(If) they get a touchdown there, they go up 10-7, momentum shifts."

Instead, Rocky Hill settled for a second 26-yard field goal from Greg Marzilli to get within one.

"We had opportunities in the first half and we had to settle for field goals," Rocky Hill coach Dave Coyne said. "That turned out to be the difference in the ballgame."

Valley then moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, aided by a pair of personal fouls on Rocky Hill, and Fairfield-Sonn threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Chris Connor on third-and-goal with 46 seconds left.

The Terriers scored their only touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, helped by a 58-yard run by Young that set up Marzilli's one-yard score. But Valley stopped Young (18 carries, 114 yards) on the conversion to stay up by two.

From there, Evan Smith knocked down a fourth-down pass on Rocky Hill's next possession and Valley forced three straight three-and-outs before the Terriers had one last chance with the ball at their own 20 with 1:38 to go.

They moved to the Valley 45, but Connor intercepted a Andrew Jekelunas pass inside the 30 with 17 seconds left to preserve the win.

"These guys took adversity and looked at it and conquered it," King said.

o.poole@theday.com

Valley/Old Lyme's Christopher Jean Pierre (88) leaps in the air to celebrate as the final seconds tick away in the Wildcats' 14-12 victory over Rocky Hill Tuesday night in the Class S playoffs.
Valley/Old Lyme's Christopher Jean Pierre (88) leaps in the air to celebrate as the final seconds tick away in the Wildcats' 14-12 victory over Rocky Hill Tuesday night in the Class S playoffs.
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