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Cheshire - Valley Regional/Old Lyme finished its final postgame huddle of the season and walked away sobbing.
Phil Cohen, Dave Peck and Cole Turner hugged assistant coach Steve Woods. And all three seniors were crying.
Tim King, Valley/Old Lyme's tough-guy coach, even found himself fighting back tears.
The Warriors' season had the rudest of endings Saturday. They were moments away from winning their CIAC Class M football semifinal when Brookfield's Bobby Drysdale ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 8 seconds left to give the Bobcats a 20-13 win at Cheshire High School.
Valley/Old Lyme thought it had extended its 13-12 lead when Phil Cohen threw a 23-yard touchdown to Dave Peck on fourth-and-4 just three minutes earlier, but the play was wiped out on a holding penalty.
Brookfield's Nick Seis sacked Cohen on the next play to give the Bobcats the ball at their own 48. Brookfield followed with its game-winning drive.
"I'm absolutely crushed," King said. "It was there. The last touchdown pass that was called back just ripped our kids' hearts out. Just ripped them out. Just, I mean, I knew …"
King couldn't complete his thoughts, sighing as his voice trailed off.
The top-seeded Warriors finished 12-1 and as Pequot Football Conference champion. It was the third time in four seasons they lost in the state semifinals.
"I love my team so much," Cohen said. "We thought that we could've made it all the way. In my heart, we made it all the way."
Valley never trailed until the final 1:08. It had the ball and a 13-12 lead with over four minutes left when Cohen's pass to Peck was called back.
"I just saw the ball in the air," King said. "Scored. I didn't see the hold. They said it was early on in the play, so I really don't know."
Brookfield coach Rich Angarano said: "I was watching the pass and getting aggravated that it was open, so to be honest with you, I didn't see it. It was an unfortunate call. I've been there many times."
The Warriors were pushed back to the Bobcats' 36 and elected to go for it, but Seis sacked Cohen.
Brookfield had a fourth-and-7 when Drysdale ran 37 yards to the Valley/Old Lyme 15-yard line. Valley/Old Lyme nearly sacked Brad Westmark on third-and-12 moments later, but he managed to get a throw off to Austin Reich for an 11-yard gain.
Drysdale scored on the next play and ran for the two-point conversion. He finished with 88 yards on 15 carries for Brookfield (11-3), which plays No. 2 St. Joseph in the state final next Saturday morning at 10 at Central Connecticut State's Arute Field in New Britain.
Westmark intercepted a deflected pass on the Warriors' final drive.
Angarano was about to speak with reporters when Cohen came over to congratulate him and the Bobcats.
"You had a great season," Angarano said. "Nobody can take that away from you."
"(Valley/Old Lyme) was an outstanding team," Angarano said. "And I mean that sincerely. We had to do everything we could to come up with this win."
Tyler Jaynes ran eight times for 58 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown that gave Valley a 6-0 lead with over five minutes left in the second quarter.
Cohen completed 10 of 18 passes for 103 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Chris Jean-Pierre (six catches, 45 yards) caught a 20-yard touchdown pass and ran seven times for 55 yards. Evan Smith added three catches for 47 yards.
Valley/Old Lyme was shorthanded before the game because Justin Cheverier was limited due to a shoulder injury suffered in Tuesday's quarterfinal win. He was the Warriors' top rusher and one of their best linebackers.
The defense lost another starter when inside linebacker Dan Figuenick suffered a knee injury in the first half.
"They were terrific," King said of his team. "They really were. They were terrific.
"It was an incredible season. As I told the kids, losing is one thing, but I had to say goodbye to them. Saying goodbye to the seniors is very tough. Some of those kids I had in elementary school when I was teaching there. I saw them in diapers when their sisters were older and they were in strollers - that's how old I am. To say goodbye is the toughest part.
"We're like a family. It's like my kids. I don't have kids. They are my kids.
"This goodbye ... it's tough."