Law returns the talent to maintain success
Jonathan Law has used its speed on offense to pile up points — and quickness on defense to make opponents work hard to score — in making the Class M playoffs in 2017 and posting a 7-3 record a year ago.
The Lawmen lost 14 players to graduation, but coach Erik Larka believes his squad has enough in the tank to persevere.
“We lucked out the past two seasons to have players with great speed,” he said. “Yes, we lost some of those players, but we return players that can hurt you.”
The Lawmen bring back six starters on offense and defense.
“We lost All-State running back Mike Plaskon (1,165 yards, 16 TDs), but we return plenty of speed and talent at the position,” said Larka, who considers depth, size and speed on offense as team strengths.
“We have three running backs. Nahiem Washington is the same kind of kid as Plaskon (10.8 speed). Curtis Murphy is a bruising runner at 5-11, 180 pounds. Spencer Hannon is our in-between guy. He has great hands and can catch the ball out of the backfield to help our passing game.”
Mike Becker will take over at quarterback (for the graduated Zach Smith who threw for 15 scores).
“Mike is a born leader and a great student of the game,” Larka said. “He went to a quarterback coach on his own and brought with him five of our receivers. The kids will follow him anywhere.”
Law will be without Ethan Saley from its corps of receivers.
“Ethan Saley (46 catches, 1,029 yards, 10 TDs) was All-Walter Camp and is now at Southern Connecticut,” Larka said. “But we bring back Zach Merchant, who was All-SCC at tight end, and we have five or six kids I’m 90 percent sure could play on any team.
“Rashon Jacobs and Naheim (Washington) are very talented. And, I don’t think Brian Felag has dropped a pass in his two years.”
Law lost some key players on its offensive line.
“I would say we are rebuilding, not depleted,” Larka said. “We have two on the Oline (junior Anthony DiFederico and Vaughn Weston) who started some at varsity. We have three seniors at the other spots in Eric Borgerson, Walker Stebbins and Chris Lill.
“Spencer Hannon will handle PK’s (place kicks). He made that game winner against Foran and has been hitting from as far out as 50 yards in practice. He’ll be our kicker the next three years.”
Larka credits defensive coordinator Chris Haley for finding the right players to anchor his team on that side of the scrimmage line.
“Zach Passaro will be at defensive end and Chris thinks he is one of the best players he’s coached at that position,” Larka said of the 5-10, 200-pound senior. “Anthony DiFederico will be at one defensive tackle and we will rotate players in around them. Zach Merchant will be an inside linebacker and Mike Becker an outside backer, where they both started last year.
“Rashon Jacobs and Sakye Mercado will line up as cornerbacks. They have good size and they will match up well with big receivers.”
Larka feels it is important for Law to get off to a good start.
“Our goal is to start 1-0 and go from there,” Larka said. “It’s not verified, but one of my assistants told me he didn’t think Law has won a season opener in 10 years.”
Last fall, the Lawmen lost their first two games. They had enough in reserve to deliver a 33-30 victory over Cheshire and a 40-32 win over Guilford. They won 7-of-8 to close the season, including a 23-20 instant classic victory against Foran on Thanksgiving. That still left them points short of repeating as state playoff qualifiers.
Law’s opens at home with Lyman Hall, and they will be at Law Field to play four of their toughest opponents (Plainville, Weston, Branford and Foran).
“Lyman Hall has phenomenal coaches and are improved,” Larka said. “We have scrimmages with Hamden and Watertown to get us ready. SCC Tier 3 has a very talented well coached group of teams. Guilford and Branford return a ton of talent.”
Coach Erik Larka’s Lawmen have posted consecutive winning seasons and their mentor was rewarded with a gift of sorts from his players.
“This was the best offseason we’ve had,” said Larka, a 1995 Law graduate who guided Bacon Academy to a state playoff berth before returning to Milford and leading the Lawmen to states in his second season (2017) “We had 30 to 35 guys in the weight room all summer. They are ready to go, and they will embarrass those that weren’t there.
“The unity is now built in, there is nobody on the outside. I just told the players that I’d rather coach a team that loves and plays the game for each other than a more talented but selfish one.”
Larka’s second highlight came by telephone.
“Law was kind of a laughingstock,” said Larka, who inherited a Law program that had never been to the state playoffs and hadn’t had a winning season since 2007. “Coaches are now reaching out. They want to scrimmage us because they know we are prepared. We are a team they want to face (as a test).”
Practice began with one hour of conditioning.
“After the first hour, we’ll get them in a football mood,” he said. “The position players will be in their stances and going through drills in 10-minute blocks. This will help their muscle memory.”
The offseason that Larka spoke of after a 7-3 campaign brought about another change.
“We have four senior captains (Zach Merchant, Mike Becker, Walker Stebbins and Zach Passaro), but junior Anthony DiFederico was so impressive that he will also be a captain and bridge the gap between those classes.”
Sept. 13 — LYMAN HALL,** 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 — at Joel Barlow, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 — PLAINVILLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — at Bassick, 6 p.m.
Oct. 18 — WESTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 — at Bethel, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1— at Branford,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 — at Harding, 7 p.m.
Nov. 21 — at East Haven,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 28 — FORAN,** 10:30 a.m.
Home games in CAPS