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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    Valley/Old Lyme takes next step to state final

    Valley/Old Lyme's Daniel Figuenick (54) celebrates with Andrew Tuscano after Tuscano scored the first of his three TDs in Valley's 34-0 win on Saturday.

    Deep River — Caked in mud and sporting a bloody nose, senior Andrew Tuscano looked like he had taken a beating.

    Just the opposite was true.

    Tuscano and his Valley Regional/Old Lyme teammates handed out the punishment in Saturday's CIAC Class S-Large semifinal football game against fourth-seeded Bullard-Havens.

    The top-seeded Warriors rolled to a 34-0 victory and advanced to their first state championship. They'll face one of the state's elite programs - No. 2 Ansonia (11-1) - which defeated No. 3 Windham 35-14, on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.

    "We knew we had to get here," Tuscano said of reaching the state championship. "At the beginning of the season, this was definitely what we wanted to do. ... It's just something that we haven't been able to reach. We've been trying so hard for the past few years.

    "Now to just get here, it's just so great."

    Valley Regional (12-0) led 9-0 at halftime and broke it open with 19 points in third quarter.

    A sure-footed running back, Tuscano and senior quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre had little problem with the muddy field at Valley Regional High School. They both rushed for over 100 yards and combined to account for all five touchdowns.

    Tuscano was Mr. Big Play, opening the scoring on a 42-yard screen pass from Jean-Pierre, and finding the end zone with second-half touchdown runs of 74 and 50 yards. He finished with 173 yards on nine carries and also made an interception. Jean-Pierre also ran for two touchdowns (63, 6) and had 139 yards on 19 carries.

    After managing just one touchdown and a safety in the first half, coach Tim King challenged his offense at intermission. They responded.

    On the first play of the second half, Tuscano bolted around the left side and raced down the sideline for a 74-yard score.

    "We told the kids that first drive of the half was huge," King said. "We had to get something out of it. And we got it on the first play. It was a great run by Andrew. We challenged the offensive line to get after it and they did.

    "The offense, they kind of took it to heart."

    The Warriors scored on their first four drives in the second half. On Tuscano's first carry after his big run, he found daylight again, going 50 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 21-0.

    Jean-Pierre put the game away with his two touchdown runs.

    "In the second half, it just started rolling for us and we just kept the momentum going," Tuscano said.

    With the outcome no longer in doubt by the fourth quarter, Valley's stubborn defense finished off the Tigers (9-3), who never drove deeper than the Warrior 15-yard line. The Warriors allowed only 72 points during the regular season.

    Bullard-Havens suffered a tough break when leading rusher Jose Cotto left the game with an injury in the second quarter and never returned.

    Now the Warriors are moving on to the state finals.

    Since a heartbreaking loss to Brookfield in last year's state semifinals, they've been driven to complete the journey this season.

    "It was something the senior class wanted, and they finally got it," King said. "The way we ended last season was very tough. ... It was gut-wrenching in that semifinal game. It's been something that's stuck in us all year long.

    "We've used it for motivation."

    King realizes the difficult task that lies ahead. Ansonia is Connecticut high school football royalty.

    "They're a dynasty," King said. "They're going for their 20th (title). It's almost like Hoosiers, the championship game. They've got tradition behind them and we're coming in. We're going to play our hearts out, that's for sure."

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Twitter: @GavinKeefe

    Valley/Old Lyme's Justin Cheverier breaks several tackles as he plows throught traffic during the Wildcats' 34-0 win over Bullard-Havens in the Class S-Large playoffs Saturday.

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