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Deep River - Kevin Woods was scheduled to hop in his car shortly after Valley Regional/Old Lyme's football game and drive to Buffalo to attend today's funeral for his uncle Tony, the older brother of Steve Woods, Kevin's father and a fellow Valley assistant coach.
Kevin Woods brought along a gift for his father: the game ball.
The Warriors thrashed Gilbert/Northwestern Regional 35-0 at Richard Blythe Field in a game they played for Tony and Steve Woods.
"(Tony) was his big brother," Valley coach Tim King said. "Steve's father passed away when he was nine with Tony and him in the car on Christmas, so Tony was pretty much his dad, his guardian growing up.
"Kevin drove up (to Buffalo Thursday), they had a mass for him, and (Friday) morning, Kevin drove back here from Buffalo and got here like 3-ish, 3:30. And now, in another half hour, we're going to load him up with Mountain Dew and stuff and he's driving back up to Buffalo for the funeral."
Justin Cheverier ran 15 times for 174 yards and three touchdowns for the Warriors, who clinched at least a share of the Pequot Football Conference title.
"This game was dedicated to him (Steve Woods)," Cheverier said. "We look after each other's backs. It was not just coach Woods who lost a family member. We lost a family member. We got the game ball for him.
"It (the win) meant the world for me. I wanted to play as hard as I possibly could for him. … We wanted to get it done for him."
It was also Senior Night for the Warriors (10-0). The win guaranteed that they'll be seeded no worse than second in the CIAC Class M playoffs. They'd likely earn the top seed with a win at Haddam-Killingworth (0-9) on Thanksgiving Eve.
Valley scored the first two times it touched the ball. Evan Smith ran for a 59-yard touchdown on the game's first offensive play.
David Peck intercepted a pass on the Yellowjackets' first drive. He returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to give Valley a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
"Yeah, we executed," Cheverier chuckled.
Cheverier ran for a 1-yard touchdown to start the second quarter. He scored on runs of 13 and 10 yards in the third quarter.
Gilbert (8-2) averaged 257 yards rushing prior to Friday night.
Valley's defense held the Yellowjackets to 135 yards of offense. Three of their 10 first downs were the result of a Warriors' penalty.
Tony Ortiz, Gilbert's leading rusher, ran 22 times for 52 yards. John Lippincott added 14 carries for 25 yards and completed 5 of 17 passes for 55 yards.
Tyler Cheverier had a sack for Valley while Peter Barry and Christopher Jean Pierre each recovered a fumble.
Jack Anthony Giaconia also blocked a quick kick early in the third quarter to give the Warriors the ball at the Yellowjackets' 18 to set up their fourth touchdown.
"The kids played well tonight," King said. "They played with a lot of emotion."