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Deep River - The Valley Regional/Old Lyme football team passed around the Principal's Cup after Wednesday night's game, taking mock swigs from it as if it were pro hockey's Stanley Cup.
"It's a great honor to get it back," senior Chris Connor said after the Warriors blitzed rival Haddam-Killingworth 42-12 in a Pequot Football League Sassacus Division game at Richard P. Blythe Field.
"After losing it last year, we wanted it back really badly. We wanted redemption. That really drove us into this game. We made sure we got that back, no doubt."
Just as important is that seniors like Connor left Valley/Old Lyme in great shape for the future.
Connor was the lone senior who started for the Warriors (7-3, 7-3) this season. They had graduated a strong nucleus from last year's CIAC Class S semifinalist and started several sophomores.
Coach Tim King tempered his expectations for what looked like a rebuilding season.
"I had confidence in our kids," King said, "but I felt that we could possibly get a couple of trap games where we'd get caught and the youth would end up hurting us.
"Seven wins, I'm happy."
The Class of 2013 helped the growing process. They never had a losing season, and King said that they might have had the best winning percentage of any class.
"We started with 15 (seniors) and we ended up with six," Connor said. "A lot of them were demo players, and maybe they didn't get as much playing time as they would've wished. That just goes to show that hard work ... even though you're not an all-star on the team ... you could tell that everyone appreciated it.
"Everyone loves the people who come in every day and work their butts off for one another."
Junior Phil Cohen completed 9 of 14 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another. Sophomore Christopher Jean Pierre caught the first TD and Connor the other.
Sophomore Justin Cheverier was the Warriors' workhorse, running 13 times for 134 yards, while junior Jean-Luc Poulard ran for two touchdowns and classmate Tyler Jaynes added another.
Sophomore Evan Smith had two of the Warriors' three second-quarter interceptions (Pierre had the other).
Senior Nate Cruz ran 10 times for 60 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars (5-5, 5-5).
The game was never in much doubt as the Warriors led 28-0 at halftime.
"This is a good stepping stone for next year," King said, "but we wanted to make sure we let the seniors go out 7-3."
Connor said, "I didn't really have too many expectations with the youth on this team. I'm proud of how they handled this year. It's amazing how talented this young group is. I'm excited for them.
"They've got a lot to build off of (for 2013), and I'm looking forward to coming back and seeing them play."