Rocky Hill runs past Valley/Old Lyme 34-21 in Class S quarterfinal
Rocky Hill — Valley Regional/Old Lyme came out firing against unbeaten Rocky Hill on Tuesday night.
The Warriors went deep on the first play of their CIAC Class S football quarterfinal. Carpe diem, go big or go home and all that jazz. Ernest Jean-Pierre made a diving 33-yard catch to the Terriers’ 35-yard line to give Valley/Old Lyme a shot of adrenaline.
Rocky Hill intercepted a pass two plays later. It rarely gave up the ball the rest of the night other than when it scored.
The third-seeded Terriers used their double wing offense to grind down the sixth-seeded Warriors. They ran 65 times for 409 yards and five touchdowns to beat Valley/Old Lyme 34-21 at McVicar Field.
“Relentless,” Valley/Old Lyme senior linebacker Blair Allen said about Rocky Hill’s rushing assault. “They keep coming at you. Every single play, there’s someone coming at you.
“You’re getting hit. You’re forced to make a play. It’s hard. You’ve got to stick with it. You’ve got to be relentless yourself.”
The Terriers (11-0) call their offense “The Hammer.”
The nickname isn’t hyperbole.
“The first thing they (a defense) see is everyone running to the ball on the other side,” Rocky Hill senior guard Dante Baker said. “Hammer, you’ve got to run like a hammer.”
The Terriers had two 100-yard rushers and nearly had a third. Wingback Joe Catania ran 30 times for 171 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wingback Joe Ferreira ran 20 times for 135 yards and two scores. Rocky Hill quarterback Dan Cavallaro even got in on the fun. He had nine carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
The Warriors (9-2) had faced power offenses before. They beat rival Haddam-Killingworth, which runs the double wing, in their last game (22-7, Nov. 17).
“I’m not taking anything away from (H-K), but its offensive line was definitely not the size of Rocky Hill,” Valley/Old Lyme coach Tim King said. “There’s no doubt about it. They’re big kids.
“We knew it all year — we’re not stout up front. We’ve had a difficult time stopping the smashmouth (teams). We’d make a great play against some other teams (to stop it), but this team, they just had too may weapons.”
Mike Cullina completed 14 of 24 passes for 231 yards with three touchdowns for the Warriors. Ryan Santos (25 yards), Jake Kruszewski (37 yards) and Jean-Pierre (4 yards) were on the receiving end.
“They never gave up,” King said. “They showed that on the last touchdown with Jake (with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left). “I’m pretty proud of the kids. We knew it was going to be a rough one going with that type of offense. It was. It was.”
Rocky Hill scored on its first three drives to go ahead 20-0. It ran 37 plays, 36 which were runs, for 233 yards.
Valley/Old Lyme ran just 14 plays for 68 yards in the first half.
Cullina threw a 25-yard touchdown to Santos late in the half for the Warriors.
Jean-Pierre caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Cullina on Valley/Old Lyme's first drive of the second half to cut the deficit to 20-14.
“They were good,” said Rocky Hill's Baker (two sacks), who also plays linebacker. “I’m not going to lie. They were fast to the ball. They made us make stupid plays at times. They were a hard team, one of the hardest teams we’ll probably play this year.”
Rocky Hill came right back with a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Catania’s 3-yard touchdown run pushed the Terriers’ lead to 27-14 with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Valley/Old Lyme won its final six regular-season games to make states and won the Pequot League Sassacus Division title.
“It was a memorable, memorable year,” Allen said. “I’m never going to forget it. I love all these guys. … I can’t say enough about the family we’ve developed.
“I can’t say enough about every one of these guys. It was a tremendous experience, and I’m so grateful.”
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