Valley/Old Lyme qualifies for Class M football playoffs
Canton — Coach Tim King didn't bother to tell his players that a win Saturday would earn the Valley Regional/Old Lyme cooperative program a trip to the CIAC Class M football playoffs.
His first concern was taking care of business against a struggling opponent, winless Canton.
"The kids did exactly what we asked," King said. "We wanted to get our varsity kids off the field by halftime and we wanted to get our JV group some experience."
Valley/OL's starters were finished midway through the second quarter and the junior varsity added a touchdown late in the first half as the Warriors scored all of their points in the opening 24 minutes en route to a 41-0 win over Canton.
Valley/OL (8-1), which missed the postseason last season a year removed from winning the 2014 Class S state title, will be returning to the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons.
"We know that we have 10 games to play and we're not taking anybody lightly," King said. "(The coaching stafff) knew that we were close to the playoffs, but it's nothing that the kids knew. Our big thing now is to win them all and try to get a home game. That's one of our big goals."
The Warriors, who have won five in a row — four by shutout — end their regular season at home against Haddam-Killingworth on Tuesday, Nov. 22. A win will guarantee them a home game in the quarterfinals of the eight-team field.
Against Canton (0-8), quarterback Matt Sapere completed all five of his passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns, a 23-yarder to Ian Humphreys, a 24-yarder to Garrett Burdick and a 21-yarder to Ernest Jean-Pierre.
Humphreys returned one of the Wildcats' three interceptions (Judd O'Brien and Ryan Santos had the others) 36 yards a minute into the second quarter for his second touchdown while Dan Stecher (four carries, 37 yards) had a 10-yard touchdown run and junior varsity back Jaelan Arnum scored the final TD on a 13-yard run. Burdick was 5-for-5 on extra points and had a pair of receptions for 50 yards.
King was confident this group could make a run at the playoffs.
"We had four wins in a row at the end of last year and I knew we had a pretty great group returning," he said. "I knew we had the receiving corps, a good back in Danny (Stecher) and Matt (Sapere) at quarterback. My biggest question was the offensive line ... I knew if we could get our offensive line to play well early, we could have a pretty good season.
"To be sitting at 8-1 right now is something pretty special."
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Under normal circumstances, the bleachers would have been full, the band in full regalia and the players in full pads for the renewal of a rivalry and the regular rhythms of a fall Friday night.