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Valley/Old Lyme improves to 3-0 with 41-13 win over Coginchaug/Hale-Ray

Old Lyme — Tie game, late first half Saturday and Tim King made his decision: punt. Fourth and seven at the Coginchaug/Hale-Ray 32. King had seen enough mistakes, penalties and other mishaps already. So get to the locker room, start screaming and hope for a better second half.

And then came an illustration as to why Coginchaug coach Erik Becker addressed the Valley Regional/Old Lyme players after the game, calling King "one of the best coaches in the state."

King didn't punt after all. He trusted his coaches enough to listen. Result: touchdown. And an eventual 41-13 win, leaving the Warriors (3-0) atop the Sassacus Division of the Pequot Conference.

The play: Quarterback Michael Cullina hit receiver Jason O'Brien at about the 10. O'Brien's nifty spin move helped him to the end zone.

"I said "Let's punt,'" King said. "But coach (Bobby) Sanchez (the defensive coordinator) said, 'no, go for it, we'll hold 'em.' I was like, 'OK, we'll go for it.' Coach (Kevin) Woods had a great play call there. It was one of the adjustments we'd been working on.

"A great staff effort and great work by the kids."

Cullina finished 13 for 25 for 215 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing. And he'd be the first to admit this game wasn't easy.

"In the beginning, I think we were all like, "OK, this is going to be a game,'" Cullina said, aware that first two wins of the season weren't very competitive. "We just kept trying to be focused. The line played great, we got the running game going and the defense was great, too."

Coginchaug (2-1) had leads of 7-0 and 13-7, thanks mostly to senior running back Patrick Ladas, who ran for 164 yards, 88 of them on a touchdown run in the second period.

"We needed this," King said. "We needed a challenge. The rest of the way is going to be a dogfight for us."

Chris Braga also ran for a touchdown for the Warriors, touching off a 58-yard gain in front of a 6-yard run for a score in the third quarter. Jake Kruszewski also picked off two passes.

They helped offset a day of penalties that had King muttering. The Warriors were penalized for two 15-yarders in the first half and had an interception return and long kickoff return nullified by flags as well.

"I thought this was going to be another Brookfield for a while," King said, alluding to his program's penalty-filled 2014 loss in the playoffs.

Valley/Old Lyme, which played its annual game at Old Lyme, has the week off before playing host to Old Saybrook/Westbrook on Oct. 6 in Deep River.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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