Warriors Looking for a Playoff Return in 2020
Senior captain Jack Cox and the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team are on the cusp of being able to start small practice groups to prepare for the 2020 season. Cox will reprise his role as starting quarterback for the Warriors this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain receiver Colbe Andrews hopes to haul in whatever passes come his way this fall to help the Warriors back to the postseason. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Didi Jean-Pierre is looking to build on his impressive freshman campaign with a stellar sophomore season in 2020. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team had a solid year in 2019 with a mark of 5-5, including a 4-2 record in the Pequot Conference Sassacus Division. With the limited practices on the horizon and fall schedules released, the anticipation of a 2020 season has Head Coach Tim King focusing on ways to get the Warriors back to the postseason.
As players and coaches are counting down the days until limited practice groups can begin on July 6, Coach King is looking forward to seeing his team begin to take shape. In preparation, King and his staff have been in virtual contact to set the stage for the 2020 campaign.
“We had a meeting last week with the kids and explained to them what’s happening. We’ve sent out bodyweight workouts and other things they can do. We’ve told then to keep preparing and to be ready for the season. Early in June, we sent out some running drills and other stuff to prepare. That is all virtual though,” said King. “The staff has met quite a few times. We’ve done some Zoom meetings about what we want to get done, safety, and the future. If the state says we’re ready to role, we’ll have a game plan set up.”
Coach King has big expectations for Valley-Old Lyme. Last season was marred by injuries at key positions, and as long as the Warriors can remain healthy, they should be able to contend. One big position of strength for Valley-Old Lyme is the line.
“I have a lot of hopes for this season. I have one of the strongest offensive lines that I’ve ever had,” King said. “Our linemen went after it last year like you wouldn’t believe. I was looking forward to the weightlifting competition before everything was called off.”
The Warriors also have plenty of returning players in skill positions like senior captain Jack Cox at quarterback. Cox will be flanked by fellow captains Colbe Andrews and Kyle Metz.
“They’re the guys we’re counting on to makes sure the kids are doing the right things,” said King. “I know Jack’s been preparing well, getting stronger, and throwing quite a bit. He throws with Colbe Andrews and some of the other kids while still maintaining the social distancing.”
One of Jack Cox’s biggest targets this year will be Andrews at wide receiver, and when the team wants to pound the ball senior Anthony Rosario will get some carries at running back.
“Jack’s going to be healthy, bigger, and stronger, and Colbe is doing the same thing,” King said. “We have other kids like Anthony Rosario at running back, and getting him back is great. He’ll be bigger, stronger, and faster. Our receiving crew was going to be well-rounded, too.”
Another important receiver for the Warriors will be junior James Marsden, who can also slot in at quarterback to offer different looks to opposing defenses.
“It’s still Jack at quarterback, but James will catch some passes from him. I’m sure James will have a few packages, as well,” said King. “We want to get him some time behind center so we aren’t in a bad situation if someone gets hurt. We want to be prepared.”
As for the overall strategy for the Warriors this season, Coach King doesn’t believe that he and his staff will stray too far from what has proven successful in seasons past.
“We’re going to do what we so best. We’re a spread team, but we’ll add some different wrinkles in. Teams will prepare for what you do best to stop your biggest plays. We always want to have a couple of wrinkles to throw in there when you need them,” King said. “You’ll probably see more changes on defense than you do on offense. A lot of times it’s personnel on defense that will dictate what you run. If you have four great linemen, you don’t take one of the field. If you have four great linebackers, you’ll go 3-4 or something to keep them on instead.”
A couple of up-and-coming impact players for the Warriors are sophomores Didi Jean-Pierre and Jeremy Arnum. Jean-Pierre already made a name for himself in last year’s 20-2 victory over Haddam-Killingworth in the battle for the Principal’s Cup, while Arnum continued building his athletic résumé with a stellar season with the Valley boys’ hoops.
“At small schools you have to rely on your juniors and sophomores. You hope to not have to worry too much about freshmen. We were fortunate to have one or two freshmen who step up every year to add to our success. Last year, it was Jeremy and Didi,” said King. “Against H-K, Didi ran that sweep pass and threw a touchdown to seal the game. Jeremy had a great basketball season and getting him back on the field is going to be great.”
Obviously there are challenges abound in planning out this season, and just getting an idea of the team’s prospective new players has been tough.
“Actually it’s been kind of difficult to find out what’s coming down the pipe. In the past we’ve sent out letters in April, and it’s usually read during the homeroom announcements. We find out what freshmen are coming up from the middle schools. Well, we weren’t in school then, so I couldn’t get a letter over to the junior highs,” said King. “I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails from interested 8th-graders. Any info that we’re sending out, they’ll receive.”
With all the disruption the Warriors will be experiencing this coming season, King is relieved to maintain continuity in his coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Kevin Woods, defensive coordinator Bobby Sanchez, assistant offensive coordinator Phil Cohen, special teams/offensive assistant Steve Woods, offensive assistant Hill Gbunblee, defensive assistant Jake Bocian, and assistant coaches Brandon Woodcock and Pete Woodcock all return for Coach King. Having that steady presence remain should help mitigate the stress of an uncertain season.
“We have everybody coming back, which is great. Nobody is moving on that we know of. I’ve got a great staff, so that will be a big help,” said King. “I think that we all just want to know what’s going, and I know that’s a hard thing to figure out. It’s the uncertainty that keeps you up at night.”
2020 Valley Regional-Old Lyme Football Schedule
All home games at Valley Regional High School unless otherwise noted
Friday, Sept. 11: at Morgan at Peters Complex at 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 18: vs. Cromwell-Portland at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 26: at Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton at Coginchaug High School at 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 3: vs. Stafford-East Windsor-Somers at Lyme-Old Lyme High School at 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9: at Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial at Coventry High School at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23: vs. North Branford at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30: vs. Sport & Medical Sciences Academy Co-op at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 14: at Old Saybrook-Westbrook at Old Saybrook High School at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21: at Gilbert-Northwestern at Gilbert High School at 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 24: vs. Haddam-Killingworth at 6:30 p.m.