VR-OL football loses to Joel Barlow in SS class final

Senior Jacob Rand recorded 33 rushing yards on 11 rushing attempts in the VR-OL Class SS Championship loss to Joel Barlow. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Junior Grady Lacourcière passed 12 of 25 for 128 yards and a score, while adding 32 rushing yards on four carries, as VR-OL failed to win an SS-class state title. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Returning to the biggest stage in the game, the Valley Regional-Old Lyme (VR-OL) football team did not win the grand prize. Still, in their entire campaign, the Warriors have certainly shown why they are and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with with their dominant push to the top.

After a 9-1 regular season and losing Foran and Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic in the SS Class playoffs while allowing just 13.5 points per game in those two playoff matchups, the Warriors, 6th seed, won only their second trip to a final state.

There, they faced No. 5 Joel Barlow for the crown on Dec. 10 at Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field. Unfortunately for VR-OL, it wasn’t a league ending to their campaign, as the Warriors suffered a 61-6 loss to the Falcons. The Warriors, who had just four wins a year ago, finished their year with an 11-2 overall mark, which was also the Falcons’ final record.

Junior Grady Lacourcière finished the day with 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards and a score, while he added 32 rushing yards on four carries. Senior Jacob Rand contributed 33 rushing yards on 11 rushing attempts. In the receiving department, senior Nick Cox was the Warriors’ leading member with five catches for 95 yards and one TD reception.

VR-OL came down just outside the Falcons red zone and attempted a 27-yard field goal to try and draw first blood in the contest, but sailed left. Barlow then had his own misfortune, as he fumbled after an option play, which was recovered by the Warriors with 3:29 left in the first quarter. However, Barlow regained possession after a scoreless VR-OL drive and took a 7-0 lead after a 5-yard touchdown run.

In the second stanza, the Falcons defense then struck 11 minutes before halftime to make it 14-0. VR-OL had a blocked punt that landed in the end zone and was mowed down by the Falcons. Just over seven minutes later, Barlow increased his command to 21-0 with another scamper TD from 12 yards out to make it a three-point contest at 3:53 before intermission. The Falcons then went to the locker room ahead 28-0, as with 48 ticks remaining in the period, Barlow hit on another sprint TD after another offensive drive after recovering a fumbled kickoff by the Warriors.

The Falcons continued where they left off in the first half going into the third. With 10:36 on the clock, they took a 35-0 lead on a 20-yard TD run. Barlow then added two-yard and 22-yard TD runs with just under six minutes left for third to eventually lead 48 toward fourth.

The defense got Barlow points again in the final quarter with a 68-yard interception returned to the end zone. Later, the Falcons veered on another touchdown with a 29-yard sprint with 7:12 remaining on the night. The Warriors rescinded the shutout offer when Lacourcière found Cox on a 20-yard TD throw with 1:52 remaining to take him to the final decision 61-6.

In the regular season, VR-OL finished an impressive 9-1. The Warriors beat North Branford (13-7), Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (61-12), Morgan (48-0), Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial (57-6), Capital Prep – Achievement First (28-0), Stafford-East Windsor-Somers (29-14), Computer Science and Engineering Academy of Aerospace and Science (42-6), Old Saybrook-Westbrook (46-8) and Haddam-Killingworth ( 28-8). VR-OL’s only defeat came by a slim 28-27 margin against Cromwell-Portland, who were beaten by Barlow in the semi-finals, 40-35.

For their previous fights in the SS State class playoffs, the Warriors first won on the road 26-13 over 3rd seed Foran on Nov. 29 in the quarterfinals. VR-OL then beat No. 7 Gilbert-Northwestern-Housatonic 26-14 at home in the semi-final on December 4.

Hill Gbunblee was assisted this fall by coaches Brandon Woodcock, Jake Bocian, Jim Metz and Phil Cohen.

The 2022 Valley Regional-Old Lyme roster consisted of seniors Rand, Cox, Andrew Yermenson, Michael Galberth, DiAngelo Jean-Pierre, Justice Glidden, Stefen Ryer, Joseph Montazella, Samuel Bourez, Ford Macadam, Adam Metz; juniors of Jacob Volkerts, Shane Gagné Lemay, Lacourcière, Maxwell Nickel, Jonathan Gosnell, Joshua Richardson; sophomores at Cameron Atkinson, Thomas Troy, Peter Kuhn, Max Novak, Matthew Cooper, Liam Sarafin, Rigo Chirinos, Jovanie Molina, Joseph Medel-Herrera; and finally freshmen with Churchill Roberts, Jackson Pannier, Dickson Conor, Chase King, Jayden Vasquez, Michael Spencer, Julius Wilson, CJ Zapatka, Jack Knudsen, Reed Schmelzer, Eli Torres, Rason Cobbs and William Sicignano.

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