Valley/OL ready for prime time
Deep River - There are more overwhelming favorites to win the CIAC Class M football championship than Valley Regional/Old Lyme, a perennial Class S competitor which moved up a division this season.
There is St. Joseph, for instance, the fifth-ranked team in the state and the owner of a state record 84 points in Tuesday night's quarterfinals, the team which has won two state titles in the past four seasons.
But ask Valley Regional coach Tim King, whose team is competing in Class M for the first time after back-to-back Class S semifinal appearances in 2010-11, if being the underdog matters one bit.
"Not at all," said King, whose team is the top seed in Class M after finishing 11-0 during the regular season. "They're not going to take 11-0 and Pequot champs away from us. Whatever happens Saturday happens."
Valley/Old Lyme meets No. 5 Brookfield in Saturday's semifinals at 2 p.m. at Cheshire High School.
The Warriors got there with a 48-3 rout Tuesday night over the eighth-seeded Quinebaug Valley Pride, a cooperative team made up of players from Putnam, Tourtellotte and Ellis Tech.
The Warriors led 34-0 at halftime, at which point they allowed Quinebaug Valley minus-seven yards offense. They didn't allow the Pride a first down until 11 minutes, 4 seconds remained in the game.
"I speak for all of the Pequot teams," Valley/Old Lyme quarterback Phil Cohen said. "There's not much talk about us and stuff, but for Morgan, North Branford, everyone, we just want to represent the Pequot. It's a strong conference."
Morgan, Coginchaug and Gilbert/NW Regional also made the playoffs out of the Pequot, although Valley/Old Lyme was the only team to advance.
Cohen finished 13-for-19 passing for 191 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, with 166 yards and all three touchdowns coming in the first half.
He also ran for a touchdown and caught an 18-yard scoring strike from Jean-Luc Poulard for the Warriors' final points with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.
"I never caught a touchdown before. I don't know how to track the ball or anything," Cohen said with a smile.
The Warriors showed the balance which has been their signature this season to score on all five possessions in the first half, going 6-for-6 on third-down conversions.
Cohen threw to Dave Peck for the game's first two touchdowns, the first a 4-yard fade to the right side of the end zone and the second a 51-yarder down the left sideline. Chris Jean-Pierre made it 21-0 with 8.3 seconds left in the first quarter, taking a direct snap from the quarterback slot and bursting 32 yards for a touchdown.
Poulard scored on a 3-yard run and Cohen threw his third touchdown pass of the half, hitting Jean-Pierre from five yards out for the 34-0 lead.
In the second half, Cohen scored on a 3-yard run and on the touchdown catch from Poulard.
Tyler Jaynes led the running attack with nine carries for 60 yards and Justin Cheverier had six carries for 57 yards. Tajhay Marshall tipped a Quinebaug pass in the second half that led to Peter Barry's 41-yard interception return, setting up a touchdown.
King said the Warriors' focus going into the game was defense.
"We knew we had to stop the run game. That was common sense; they had two 1,000-yard backs," King said. "We were watching film on them all day, saying, 'We've got to stop this. We've got to stop this.'
"We're excited to be here. These kids. When the season's over, that's what I'm going to miss the most. It's been so much fun. We laugh together. We cry together. When one of our staff members lost a family member recently, they rallied around it; the kids shed tears right along side of us.
"... We're pretty well-balanced. We put stuff in each week for them; we try to change it around and add a little spice to it."
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