DEEP RIVER >> Valley Regional/Old Lyme advanced to its third state semifinal appearance in four years with a dominating 48-3 win against Quinebaug Valley Tuesday in the Class M quarterfinals at Blythe Field.
The top-seeded Warriors (12-0) will meet No. 5 Brookfield (10-3) on Saturday at Cheshire High School. The Bobcats edged No. 4 Bethel, 22-21.
The other Class M semifinal will pit No. 2 St. Joseph-Trumbull against No. 3 Joel Barlow (10-2).
“(Valley’s) got a great group of athletes and a big, up front defense,” said Quinebaug Valley coach Joe Asermelly. “Their defensive line is terrific and they’ve got a great group of offensive skill players. I told Coach Tim (King), ‘Make sure I lost to the eventual champs.’ I think they’ve got all the pieces and I wish them a lot of luck.”
Senior quarterback Phil Cohen sparked the Warriors offense with three touchdown passes. Cohen also scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, stretching the Warriors lead with a 3-yard scamper and an 18-yard catch for a touchdown off a nice throw from Jean-Luc Poulard.
“We came to play tonight,” said Valley coach Tim King. “The kids were focused. The penalties were the only thing that was kind of getting to us. But they played a pretty good football gamer tonight. I was very pleased with them. And we got a lot of playing time for the young kids in the final quarter.”
Valley scored on all five of their first half possessions.
Cohen capped an opening 71-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to senior David Peck, who out jumped a Pride defender in the corner of the end zone. Cohen then hit Peck with a perfect toss along the sidelines for a 51-yard touchdown pass and Valley led 14-0 after Jared Roche’s extra point kick.
Chris Jean-Pierre’s 32-yard touchdown run made it 21-0 with eight seconds left in the first quarter.
Poulard added a 3-yard TD run midway through the second quarter. Cohen then found Jean-Pierre with a 5-yard touchdown toss and Valley led, 34-0, at intermission.
“It’s tough to go on the road and get the number one team to start when you’ve never even experienced anything like this,” said Asermelly.
Warriors lineman Peter Barry intercepted a Tylor Genest pass and rambled all the way to the Quinebaug 9-yard line, setting up a short TD run from Cohen that made it 41-0 with 8:38 left in the third quarter.
Valley’s defense smothered Quinebaug through the first three quarters. The Warriors held the Pride to just 14 total yards and didn’t allow a first down through the first three quarters.
Quinebaug finally had a scoring drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 21-yard field goal from senior Connor Pion with just 1:13 left to play.
“I just felt it was the surest way to score,” Asermelly explained.
“So it really wasn’t much of a decision once we got that extra five yards. He’s a good kicker so we gave him the opportunity to be successful.”
Cohen completed 13 of 19 passes for 214 yards. Senior Tyler Jaynes did a terrific job filling in for linebacker/running back Justin Cheverier, who bruised his shoulder late in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game. Jaynes finished with 53 yards on nine carries.
“Everything that you do is one step closer to our ultimate goal and that’s the state finals,” said King.
“We didn’t play well against H-K (in our last game) so that’s been lingering. That’s been kind of a sour spot with us for a week so to come out and play well and execute really helps.”