Jonathan Law head coach Erik Larka had plenty to tell his players after the Lawmen defeated Foran High, 23-20, on Thanksgiving Day.
“I said that this is what program’s do,” Larka said of his Lawmen, who finished 7-3 and mere points out of a return to the Class M playoffs. “This is the new standard in Devon— six, seven, eight wins.
“Tom Drew and his coaching staff had Foran ready. If last year’s game (a 34-28 last minute win for Law) was an instant classic, than this one was a classic as well.”
Freshman placekicker Spencer Hannon booted a 23-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining, as Law tied the Turkey Day series with the Lions at 22-22-2.
‘It is unbelievable for a freshman in that situation to put it through like that,” Larka said of Hannon who beat out four other candidates for the job. “I’m looking to three more seasons with Spencer…Nothing will ever be as difficult.”
Larka had nothing but praise for the determination his seniors brought to the field every day.
“This all began three years ago when we threw a bunch of sophomores out there to learn,” Larka said of that 4-6 campaign. “That experience was there for us last year when we made the states (at 7-3 for the first time). I’m proud of all of our seniors. They will be remembered as one of the winningest classes at Law.”
Team captains Austin Danville, Ethan Saley, Mike Plaskon and Sheldon Gargano helped elevate the Devonites.
Senior classmates Vinny Schulte, Zach Smith, Dominick Pacelli, Ethan Deer, Nick Hanna, Ryan Mola, Jacob Karas and Harin Ramadhan were more than happy to follow their lead.
On Thanksgiving Day, Law had to rally from a 10-0 deficit after the Lions broke on top at the Vito DeVito Sports Complex.
Not surprisingly, it was Plaskon and Saley who brought the Lawmen back.
Twenty-two seconds after the Lions went up by two scores, Plaskon took the ball wide, made the first tackler miss, and then used a jab step to cut back on his way to a 70-yard touchdown.
“If Mike and Ethan aren’t All State then I don’t know a thing about football,” Larka said.
Saley added to his bonafides with a dazzling 54-yard touchdown reception, after his interception got the ball back three plays into the second quarter.
On first down, Smith found his fleet-footed receiver on a go-pattern up the sideline. With a defender on his trail, Saley made an over-the-shoulder catch of the well-placed pass on the 37 and high stepped his way 54 yards for the touchdown. Hannon’s PAT gave Law a 13-10 advantage.
Smith completed 17-of-23 passes for 258 yards and two scores.
Law’s offensive line of Danville, Mola, Hanna, junior Erik Borgerson and sophomore Vaughn Weston paved the way for Plaskon, who ran for 155 yards on 22 carries to finish the season with 1,391 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
Saley had six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He closed with 46 catches good for 1,029 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Foran (1-9) came back to tie the game at 13 on Korey Demirhan’s second field goal, this one good for 29 yards with 4:56 remaining in the first half.
Foran took the kickoff in the third period and moved to a first down at the 9, but on 3rd-and-goal Plaskon intercepted a dump pass off a run-option in the end zone.
Saley caught a third-down pass over the middle, received a fine block by Zach Merchant, and went 23 yards for the touchdown to make it 20-13 on the Devonites second possession of the quarter.
Law’s defense then hindered any Lion progress the next two series.
“Our defenders in the box and our linebackers won this game for us,” said Larka, who was assisted by Craig DesRuisseaux, Clarence Dukes, Chris Haley, Des Lymon, Larry McNellis, Rich Nucifora and Courtney Williams.
Playing well at the scrimmage line were Hanna, Weston, Gargano, junior Zack Passaro and sophomore Anthony DiFederico.
Top linebackers were junior Zach Merchant, junior Mike Becker, junior Curtis Murphy and Danville.
The all-senior secondary was made up of Dominick Pacelli, Plaskon and Saley.
It was Foran’s defense that gave its offense great field position in the final quarter.
Demirhan, Gabe Dias and Will Phelan made the plays to force a punt from the Law 16 and the Lions took over on the 31.
Phelan had an nine-yard catch to bring the ball to the two, and two carries later Tom Dempsey scored his second TD. The conversion kick knotted the game at 20-all with 8:37 left to play.
Felag had a pair of clutch catches for Law (14 and 12 yards) and the Lawmen had a first down at the Lions’ 22, but after a fumble Foran’s Ryan Zarnoch came out of the pile with the football.
Danville had a key stop for Law to help force a three-and-out with 2:03 on the scoreboard.
A well-designed 36-yard pass from Smith to Naheim Washington brought the ball to the 13. On fourth down, Hannon came on and made his 23-yard game-winning field goal.
Foran’s Nick Costantini caught a 14-yard completion and Andrew Janik ran for nine yards to the 49. But Merchant knocked away a pass and the Law defense swarmed Janik as the clock ran out.
Law notes: Ryan Mola received the Robert Taylor Award for sportsmanship. The Lawman Alumni Trophy went to Mike Plaskon. The Joe Beler Jr. Defensive Player of the Game honors was earned by Austin Danville. Nick Hanna was chosen as the Ray Bloxsom Sr. Milford High Remembrance Top Lineman Award recipient. Zach Smith earned the Les Beaulieu Unsung Hero. Ethan Saley was presented the Teddy Paul Kostopoulos Award.