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Justin Badolato helped the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team fill a need for a power running back when he moved off of the line and into the backfield this fall. The senior captain also played tight end, defensive end, and linebacker for the Warriors. (Photo courtesy of Justin Badolato )
Justin Badolato doesn’t back down when it comes to doing whatever is necessary for the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team to succeed. As one of the senior captains, Justin kept the Warriors together throughout a challenging five-win campaign this fall. Valley-Old Lyme finished its season on a high note by beating Haddam-Killingworth for the Principal’s Cup, and Justin finished his high school career playing a variety of roles with the Warriors.
Justin started off as an offensive lineman, but based on the needs of his team, he altered his offseason training regimen to remake himself into a running back. Justin feels proud of the work that he put in to accomplish that feat.
“I’m really proud of how I transformed my body. I was 300 pounds my sophomore year. I dropped to 240 my junior year, and then my senior year, I was 210,” Justin says. “[Head Coach Tim King] offered to move me to running back after I had been a lineman all those years. I’m really proud of being able to do that.”
It was a whole new world for Justin when he moved off of the offensive line, but he took the change in stride. As long as he was able to help the team, Justin was happy to do it. He scored a pair of touchdowns on the season.
“It was definitely different. Looking back, I wish I had a couple of more years to learn the running back spot,” Justin says. “Just being next to the quarterback in the backfield and not on the line with the big guys anymore was a definitely a different feeling.”
In addition to his responsibilities in the backfield, Justin played multiple positions on defense, depending on where Coach King needed him.
“I played a little linebacker in the beginning of the season. Then I moved back to defensive line. Coach would put me at defensive end. When we go to the three-front, they would put me back at linebacker,” said Justin, who lives in Deep River. “Sometimes they would try me out at the tight end. They would also have me in the backfield blocking for our quarterback Jack Cox.”
When his number was called on offense, Justin tried to make the most of his carries by busting through the defensive line. Then when Justin played on the other side of the ball, his job was to do the same thing to the opposition’s offensive front. All of Justin’s work in the weight room paid dividends in both of those scenarios.
“My main move is just to bulldoze people. That’s what I love to do. I’ve been known as a power back. I love running up the middle and getting the yards we need. I can carry a bunch of people on my back,” Justin says. “On the line, I would just try to get through the defensive end. My best go to move was a bull rush, honestly. [Defensive coordinator Bobby Sanchez] did a great job of getting me ready to play all of my defensive positions.”
The Warriors saw some key players suffer injuries this year and went through a difficult stretch in the middle the season as a result. A senior leader, Justin felt it was important to keep the team pulling in the same direction, even when the positive results weren’t coming easily.
“Our coaches were just saying that all we can do is finish the season off strong. Injuries hurt us in the beginning of the season, but we wanted to finish strong for all of the seniors,” Justin says. “I really just tried to keep the team together, even on our rough run. I would tell the team that we’ve got to play with heart, and we’ve got to play together.”
Valley-Old Lyme finished the year with three-straight wins, including a 20-2 home victory in its annual Principal’s Cup matchup with H-K. Justin was happy that the Warriors avenged their 27-21 defeat to the Cougars from the previous season.
“We lost it my junior year, so we really wanted this win. It was really big for us. We wanted to make the former players, the parents, and all the coaches proud,” says Justin. “We really wanted to win this for the coaches. They coached us really well this year, and we wanted to win if for all the support they’ve given us.”
Coach King has spent plenty of time working with Justin these past few years. King knows that he will miss having Justin around as a positive voice for his squad.
“Justin is just an awesome young man. He played guard for us last year, and we asked him to move to tailback this year to be a bigger back for us. He did his work in the weight room and at the track, and he lost like 40 pounds,” says King. “The first two games of the season, we had one of our starting linemen out. Justin went back there for a couple of games, and he didn’t even hesitate. He told us anything he can do for the team he can do.”
Justin is also a member of the boys’ track program at Valley Regional. After Justin finishes his high school career, he would like to get involved coaching. Justin is currently exploring his options to play collegiate football, but while he’s still at Valley, he’s decided to learn more about coaching through his capstone requirement.
“We all have to go with a teacher that will help us learn what we want to do in the future. I’m doing mine with Coach King,” says Justin. “I’m always with him during gym, and he’ll give me awesome tips on how to be a coach and earn respect. Honestly, I would coach anything, but my passion is for football. I’ve loved it since elementary school. It’s something I’d like to stay close to for the rest of my life.”