DEEP RIVER >> Valley Regional/Old Lyme senior Garrett Burdick has big-play capability whenever he touches the ball, whether on offense, defense or with his leg.
Burdick did a little bit of everything Friday night in a Pequot Conference contest against rival North Branford. Burdick started the scoring when he kicked a 37-yard field goal and then he made two interceptions, including one he returned 99 yards for a touchdown in the Warriors’ 45-0 victory at Blythe Field.
Burdick also kicked six extra points.
“He’s a special kid,” Valley Regional coach Tim King said. “He really is. He’s just around the ball, he’s got six picks already in five games. He’s got a knack for the ball. He breaks on the ball, and he almost baits quarterbacks into throwing it, and then he breaks on it so well. He’s like a center fielder out there.”
Burdick’s electric interception return for a touchdown came on a 3rd-and-5 at the Valley 7 and put the Warriors (4-1) up 38-0 with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
“I saw daylight,” Burdick said. “I actually almost got tripped up behind me, honestly. I thought I was going to get caught. After that, after I got tripped up, I kept going and I saw green grass so I just went.”
Fellow senior Dan Stecher also played an integral role in the Valley victory. Stecher carried nine times for 213 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 16, 81 and 4 yards.
“The holes were at least 10 yards open,” Stecher said, crediting his offensive line. “It was incredible. All I had to do was to wait for my linemen to open it up and it was wide open. They played one safety high and I just had to run straight through.”
The Warriors rebounded from their first loss of the season to still unbeaten Cromwell/Portland on Sept. 30.
“This win was definitely huge knowing the rivalry,” Burdick said. “There’s definitely been a huge tradition of that back in the day. It’s huge to be a part of this game and to make a difference in this game. I think it’s a big win for us and I think it’s huge for our team moving forward.”
Burdick’s field goal was the only scoring of the first quarter. Senior quarterback Matt Sapere connected with sophomore Jason O’Brien on a 33-touchdown pass and two Stecher touchdown runs and a 4-yard touchdown run by Sapere gave the Warriors a 31-0 lead at halftime.
North Branford coach Mark Basil thought his team played tough in the first quarter, but the inability to execute prevented the Thunderbirds (1-3) sustaining drives.
“I feel like we had a couple of opportunities with balls being caught,” Basil said. “We have to capitalize. I have a young quarterback (junior Jeff Jablonski), a first-year varsity kid. He needs to find his rhythm early. Had he connected on a few of those, I think he would have felt better about himself. Then he started to press, and other guys started to press, and that’s a sign of a young team.”
North Branford senior captain Dillon Blake left the game with a hip injury and did not return.
“We lost our go-to-guy and I think the guys felt that,” Basil said.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme 45, North Branford 0
(at Deep River)
North Branford 0 0 0 0 — 0
Valley Regional 3 28 14 0 — 45
V—Garrett Burdick 37 FG
V—Jason OBrien 33 pass from Matt Sapere (Burdick kick)
V—Dan Stecher 16 run (Burdick kick)
V—Dan Stecher 81 run (Burdick kick)
V—Matt Sapere 4 run (Burdick kick)
V—Garrett Burdick 99 int ret (Burdick kick)
V—Dan Stecher 4 run (Burdick kick)
Team records: Valley Regional 4-1; North Branford 1-3