Law-Foran Thanksgiving football game could be most important in series history

Photo of Joe Morelli
Law vs. Foran football

Law vs. Foran football

Hearst Connecticut Media/Designed by Pete Paguaga

Frank Luysterborghs spent many a Thanksgiving Day morning working the sidelines as the head football coach at Law High. So he understands the importance of what the Law-Foran rivalry means.

“It’s always a rivalry game. It’s always a huge game,” said Luysterborghs, the head coach at Law from 1983-2000.

Both current Law coach Chris Haley and Foran coach Tom Drew mentioned how the relationships between the players in the rivalry currently have been cordial, how most have grown up together through Pop Warner football.

“It’s not, ‘We hate that side of town.’ It’s really a healthy rivalry which makes it more special,” Drew said.

Said Haley: “We reinforce heavily about how people come from all over the state to watch this game. We are putting Milford on display.”

There will be plenty more at stake this year than town bragging rights when Law hosts Foran at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the 49th meeting between the two teams. In fact, for the first time, both teams will extend their seasons beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Both undefeated Foran and one-loss Law have already qualified for the Class SS and Class M playoffs, respectively, which begin on Nov. 29.

“What’s a relief is that both Coach Haley and I have our playoff spots locked up,” Drew said. “We speak often about Milford and our teams. … The only way to build programs is if both teams are successful. We root for each other except for Thanksgiving.”

Foran is currently the top seed in Class SS at 9-0. Law is in the second spot in Class MM at 8-1.

Previously, Milford used to play Stratford before that school closed in 1983. Law played Bunnell. For two years, Foran played Stratford before the two Milford teams met  in 1985 - on the Saturday after Thanksgiving due to inclement weather.

That first holiday game was a 6-6 tie, a game Luysterborghs hasn’t forgotten. Law was stopped on the 6-inch line according to an account in the Bridgeport Post.

“We felt we scored from 1 yard out late in the game,” Luysterborghs said.

Foran won the Class M state championship in 1994, defeating Hand 28-24. There were six divisions back then as there is now, but just a state championship final. The next year, it went to a four division format with semifinals and finals.

The last time Foran made the playoffs was in 2001. The Lions were the top seed in Class M, but lost to New Canaan 41-13.

Joe Beler Jr., who played for his dad Joe, Sr.,at Foran and coached on both sides of this rivalry, said Law had a chance to get into Class M as well.

But the only other tie in the rivalry occurred that season 19-19, and New Canaan edged out Law, Beler said.

“No one knew Law could have snuck in as a 4 seed,” Beler said.

Law’s first and only playoff appearance came in 2017 thanks, of course, to beating Foran on Thanksgiving 34-28. The Lawmen were the No. 8 seed in Class M. It was Jeff Bevino’s final game as Foran’s coach.

But now, both teams will get to experience what the postseason will be like at the same time. Home games in the playoffs are definitely at stake with the top teams in each of the six divisions getting the chance to host as many as two games.

But first, it’s about which team wins the battle of Milford. And a big crowd is expected to be on hand in Devon.

“I think it’s going to probably be one of the biggest crowds in the game’s history, I really do,” Drew said.

Said Haley: “I told our kids there will be more people at this game than your playoff game, hands down. It’s a great, great thing,...I can’t wait. I wanted to play a week ago.”

Luysterborghs spent part of the fall season living in Venice, Florida. He kept tabs on both teams’ success. He is coming back to Connecticut for the holiday and plans to be in attendance on Thursday.

“I think it’s great for Milford football. It’s got to be exciting for the whole town,” Luysterborghs said.

Shuttle Service for Game

Due to the K-Mart Shopping Center demolition that is currently underway (located across the street from Jonathan Law), parking will not be available in the K-Mart lot as it has been for many years. The Milford Public Schools have partnered with Durham School Services to arrange for shuttle bus service that will go from Walnut Beach to the front doors of Jonathan Law High School. The buses will continue to loop back and forth throughout the game. The shuttle service will be free to all.

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli