Old Lyme – Among the catchy battle cries in state high school football: “Defend The Hill,” the foundation on which Tim King and now current Valley Regional/Old Lyme coach Hill Gbunblee have built one of the great small school programs in Connecticut.
But this was different, the annual home game away from “The Hill,” the hallowed home field at Valley Regional, instead to honor the other half of the cooperative at Old Lyme.
The Warriors knew two things Saturday: There was no hill to defend and there would be no defending to Hill any sleepwalking against an overmatched opponent.
“The biggest thing we needed today,” Gbunblee said, “was to play our game and not feed into other extraneous things.”
Valley/Old Lyme ensured a running clock for the entire second half, throttling Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial 57-6 at Jim Gardner Field.
The Warriors are 4-0 and now hit the road after a bye week for toughies at Capital/Achievement (Oct. 20), defending Class S champion Cromwell Portland (Oct. 28) and Stafford/East Windsor/Somers (Nov. 4).
For now, though, they get to enjoy an unblemished record and a day they stuffed the statistical sheets to finally get a win at their other home field.
“We haven’t won here since 2019,” said senior Jake Rand, an Old Lyme resident, who led his team with 134 yards and rushed for a touchdown. “I’m a senior and a captain and this feels really good to win on this field.”
Junior quarterback Grady Lacourciere may have found his way into school record books with six touchdown passes, four to Nick Cox and two to DiAngelo Jean-Pierre.
Lacourciere finished 11-for-12 for 152 yards. Cox, meanwhile, earned his nickname “Nick Six” with touchdown receptions of 7, 15, 11 and 53 yards. He also fell two yards short of a rushing touchdown and had a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
And now, as Gbunblee showed his players by making them run a length-of-the-field sprint after the game, the season begins.
“We’ve been talking to the kids about what’s ahead,” he said. “They make fun of me because I tell them all they’ve had is appetizers so far and the meat and potatoes are ahead. Not to take anything away from anyone we’ve played, but now we have Capital, Cromwell and Stafford all on the road.”
His players hardly complained about the postgame running.
“We have very good senior leadership,” Gbunblee said. “Whatever we ask of them, we never have to tell them twice.”