A closer look at Thanksgiving Day game
When Colin Firmender drifted down the right sideline and caught Foran High quarterback Lance DiNatale’s pass without a defender around him on the Jonathan Law 30-yard line and went the distance to score on the game’s third offensive play on Thanksgiving Day morning in Devon, it sent an instant message that the Lions had, indeed, come to play in the 43rd annual meeting of the rivals.
As the play unfolded and you could see that the defense had been caught flat-footed, the frustration level rose immensely on Law’s sideline.
On the prior play, a bad snap from center had sent DiNatale chasing after the ball. He finally recovered it on his own 39-yard line. It left the Lions facing a 3rd-and-17 situation. The big-time strike, covering 61 yards, broke any early momentum that coach Derrick Lewis’ Lawmen was hoping they would have.
Foran (7-3) wasted little time on its march to a 50-0 win over Law (1-9) before a crowd of close to 3,500 at Law Field.
“We’re an opportune football team,” said Foran head coach Jeff Bevino. ”We’ve been that way all season long. But, remember this, getting a receiver open is one thing, getting the ball there to him is a whole other thing. I’d put my guy (DiNatale) up there with all of the very good quarterbacks we’ve had at Foran since I’ve been here (2005).”
DiNatale finished with a solid passing day (8 of 12 completions for 152 yards along with two TD passes), but it took a solid, all-around team effort for the Lions to roll to their eighth consecutive win over the Lawmen. Foran now leads the series, 21-20-2.
“Our first half was one of the best I’ve ever seen in my coaching career,” Bevino said. “We hardly missed a block and made maybe one or two mistakes. You really can’t play a better half, either offensively or defensively than that.”
Foran led 37-0 at the half.
The only thing lacking for Foran after this win was a trip to the CIAC Class M playoffs. The Lions entered the contest needing to springboard past Stratford, St. Joseph and East Haven. Two of them needed to lose, but only East Haven went down to defeat, bowing to Branford, 10-7.
“I’m disappointed,” Bevino said after he’d heard the news of the other game’s results. “I’d really like to have seen what this team could’ve done in the playoffs. But, it shouldn’t have come down to this. We had a chance to beat Hillhouse several weeks back and didn’t get it done. So, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”
Not only was Foran’s offense in high gear on Thanksgiving, its defense, led by Jason Townsend, the Lions’ Joe Beler Sr. Memorial Award winner as top defensive player, pretty much stifled Law’s offense all game long.
Only twice during the entire game was Law able to penetrate Foran’s territory. The Lawmen took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Lions’ 28, primarily behind the running of sophomore Justin Abe, a recent replacement in the backfield. On the drive, Abe carried the ball four times for 11 yards and caught a pass from junior quarterback Mitchell Smith.
But when Smith threw an incompletion on 4th-and-six from the 28, Law turned the ball over for the fifth time without any results up until that point.
“It’s pretty simple to figure out,” said Lewis, who guided the Eagles to a 5-6 season (including a 41-21 loss to Foran) in 2014, but could only garner one win in nine tries this year. “The fact of the matter is, they’re a better football team than we are. We’re lacking in skill development and we need to get better in a hurry. We’re not going to waste any time either. We named our 2016 captains (Smith, Jake Mola, Dennis Theis and A.J. Repollet) last night.
“We tried to weather the storm today, knowing that their offense would be difficult to stop. Our kids fought hard. As a coach, you really can’t ask for more than that.”
Law closed out the day with 115 yards of offense with Theis leading the way (14 carries, 48 yards) and Abe adding 26.
On the other side, Foran concluded play with 401 yards. Offsetting their usually strong passing game was the running of senior tailback R.J. Balado, who had 116 yards on 14 attempts and scored on TD runs of 31, 12 and 20 yards, all in the first half.
“Our running game seems to surprise opponents at times,” said Balado, who was honored after the game with the Mike Miller Memorial Award for his individual effort. “We’re able to catch a lot of teams by off-balance when we throw the run in there. On this team, we always pick each other up.”
Award winners: Foran’s Colin Firmender took home the Ken Walker Game MVP Award. The Dan Wasson Memorial Award for offensive player of the game went to Brett Huber, who had four catches for 55 yards and scored a touchdown on a running play.
Foran’s Mario Ponsale Coaches Memorial Award was presented to DiNatale. Sammy Kopatch was the Lions’ recipient of the Ray Bloxsom Sr. Milford High Remembrance Trophy as the Lions’ top lineman. Brandon Chiaraluce won the matching award for the Lawmen.