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Players, parents upset that Valley/Old Lyme coach King being forced to resign

Valley Regional/Old Lyme football players and their parents said Friday that head coach Tim King is under pressure from the District 4 Board of Education to either resign or be fired for his alleged involvement with an independent football league team involving players from the school's program.

"I was just in shock when I heard about it," Valley/Old Lyme senior co-captain Jack Cox said. "I told the rest of the football team. They were all in shock. Some recent players who graduated, as soon as they found out they were all in shock. So my phone has just been blowing up all day (about) how do we stop this? How do we get Region 4 District to retract their (demand)?

"It's been some work. It's not been fun, but it has to happen."

King declined to comment. A call to Kate Sandmann, the chairwoman of the Region 4 Board of Education, was not returned. District 4 represents Chester, Deep River and Essex. The football team is run through Valley Regional.

Parents and players said that King's comments to The Day for a story last month about independent league football were being used against him. King referred to himself as the "general manager" but noted that he couldn't coach.

The independent team consisted of players from the Valley/Old Lyme program as well as Waterford. The team, called the War Cats, was coached by Bobby Narducci, one of King's former assistants.

This would have been King's 23rd season as Valley/Old Lyme's head coach. The high school football season was postponed by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference at the recommendation of the state Department of Health over concerns about COVID-19. Independent club teams began forming statewide to fill the void.

King, who also teaches physical education at Valley, coached the Warriors to their only CIAC state championship in 2014.

Players and parents reacted negatively to the news. Cox and others started a petition Friday morning on change.org in support of King. Nearly 1,700 had signed it as of 7 p.m.

"It seems ridiculous to me and to most people because he really did have nothing to do with what they're saying (he was)," Valley/Old Lyme senior and co-captain Kyle Metz said. "People are going to freak out about this. He's touched so many people over the past 20 years. It's insane."

Cox added: "You can rely on him for everything. He's there for whatever you want him to be in your life. That's been the case for so many others (in) the past ... You look at the comments on those petitions, there's football players, there's track players. People who have never even played a sport who were just in his gym class (signed it) to say that Tim King made it easy for them, he made it fun and that he touched a lot of people's lives."

Some school systems, like Meriden, embraced independent football and allowed Maloney and Platt to participate with its blessing. Valley did not want its program having any direct affiliation with the league and prohibited its coaches from coaching.

"I put the team together," said Casey Metz, who has another son, Adam, in the program. "When the CIAC made their ruling that 11-on-11 would not be happening, my kids were like, 'what are we going to do?' I said. 'I'm going to do everything I can as your mom to see what we can do. Whether you guys go play on (another) team or we form a team, I'm going to figure out what I can do. I'm going to exhaust all possibilities,' and that's what I did. I set out to do that. It popped up on Facebook that Mark Siems was offering a high school level (league) through his semi-pro league."

Siems runs the Silver City Wolves of the semi-pro East Coast Football League.

"I reached out to him on Facebook and he said, 'great, I'll put you down on the list," Metz said. "I said, 'what are my next steps?'

"I did fundraising. I had a cornhole tournament to raise money and then the parents paid for their players' equipment and uniforms and insurance and that was it. Then we raised money to be able to cover game costs, which would be about $500 a game, give or take. ... I really had no contact with (King) about forming (the team). I did the uniforms on our own though Stadium System. We got the equipment through Stadium System. It was delivered to my house and I handed it out. I collected the registration fees. I ran the team."

There was an outpouring of support on Twitter for King, including head coaches from Rockville (Erick Knickerbocker) and the the Stafford/East Windsor/Somers co-op (Brian Mazzone). Their respective teams play in the Pequot League, of which Valley/Old Lyme is a member.

"Growing up in the Pequot Football League Tim King has always been a role model and friend. He has set the standard of what it is to be an outstanding high school football coach in CT," Knickerbocker tweeted.

Barry Cox, who's son Nick is also in the Valley/Old Lyme program, said: "(King) wasn't coaching in that (independent) league. ... For them to do this, I can't imagine what interest they feel they're serving in District 4 to fire this guy who's revered and basically an icon."

n.griffen@theday.com 

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