OLD LYME >> Minutes after Valley Regional/Old Lyme had vanquished Old Saybrook/Westbrook, 42-7, Warriors senior Tajhay Marshall, a linebacker who moved to Old Lyme from Florida a few years ago, walked over and handed the game ball to George C. King.
King, 91, the father of Valley head coach Tim King, was the quarterback for Old Lyme’s 1941 football team.
Tim King then gave the other game ball to his uncle, Tim Keenan, who was a member of Old Lyme’s last football team in 1942.
Yes, Old Lyme’s football past met its present and future on this glorious day: a fall Saturday afternoon when football returned to Old Lyme High School for the first time in 72 years.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme has been a cooperative football team since 2006. Instead of playing at Blythe Field in Deep River, the Warriors and Rams battled on the Wildcats’ soccer pitch turned football field in front of crowd estimated at 1,500.
“It was awesome,” said Old Lyme’s Will Visgilio, a junior lineman. “One of the best feelings I’ve ever had coming here. Going up to Valley is fun and that’s awesome too but there’s nothing like it here. It’s nice to see a home crowd and a lot of Old Lyme faces. It was special to be a part of this.”
Once the game started, it didn’t take long for the defending Pequot Conference champions to set the tone. Senior Justin Cheverier returned the kick-off to the Old Saybrook 18-yard line and four plays later senior Evan Smith zipped seven yards for a touchdown.
After the Rams fumbled on its first possession, Valley senior quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre, who tossed four TD passes in the first half, found Andrew Tuscano with an 18-yard scoring play. Junior Jared Roche added the extra point – Roche made all six of his kicks – and the Warriors led 14-0 with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
With Old Saybrook having trouble moving the football against Valley’s big front seven, the Warriors (3-0) tacked on three more touchdowns on their next three possessions.
Jean-Pierre scampered 30 yards for a touchdown and Cheverier scored two touchdowns on a pair of screen passes, racing 29 and 45 yards into the end zone, and Valley led 35-0 with 2:32 to go in the first quarter.
Jean-Pierre then capped Valley’s big half with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tuscano.
“We wanted to try and get it done pretty quick and get some kids off the field,” said King. “But it was also tough not being able to get quality reps. I think the varsity ran 15 plays.”
The Rams (0-3) touchdown came with less than two minutes to go on a short pass from senior quarterback Max Urban to junior Dondre Swain.
Besides his two touchdowns, Cheverier, a senior linebacker, finished with 14 tackles to tie Greenwich’s Pete Salvatore (2001-2003) for the most career tackles in state history with 520.
Later, when Tim King tried to address his team in the end zone following a long, emotional day, he had a hard time getting the words out through the tears.
“Today was a big day for my dad and my uncle,” said King. “I’m exhausted. I didn’t get much sleep last night knowing the type of day it was going to be. They’re the last two remaining players from that 1941 team.”
King recalled going to West Point to see Army football games with Tim Keenan, who had season tickets for many years, and seeing college stars like Johnny Rodgers, Dave Casper and John Cappelletti.
“Tim was one of the first ones that got me started in football,” said King. “I owe him a lot.”
Keenan and George King, a World War II veteran and one of the oldest living high school athletes in Old Lyme, also participated in the game’s ceremonial coin toss.
“I told my dad about this game a while ago and he’s been talking about it for months,” King added.
And they’ll be talking about the day football returned to Old Lyme for many months to come.