Football: Erik Larka returns to coach Lawmen

Erik Larka graduated from Jonathan Law in 1995 after earning All-Coastal Conference football honors on defense for coach Frank Luysterborghs.

After leading Bacon Academy (Colchester) the past three seasons, including a Class M qualifying 8-3 record a year ago, Larka has returned to coach the Lawmen.

“It’s surreal in a sense,” said Larka, who replaces Derrick Lewis. “Its great getting to know the kids, and I started doing that immediately after I was hired.”

At Bacon Academy, Larka’s Bobcats upended Ledyard, Norwich Free Academy and Fitch of Groton to win the ECC Large Division championship in 2015. They went 2-9 and 6-5 in his first two years at the helm. Law’s last winning season came in 2007 when the Lawmen went 9-1 for coach Mark Robinson.

“It  does take time,” said Larka, who was an assistant at Law before coaching six seasons at Western Connecticut State University and then moving on to Bacon Academy. “I’m really happy with our progress at the two passing camps (UNH and SCSU) and in our scrimmages. It is an evaluation process.”

“Now, it’s game week and you get to see the strengths and weaknesses. I’m competitive and want the most from my boys. Friday night I’ll crack the whip, that’s the business part of football. I’ll have to be the bad guy once in awhile. After the whistle blows, because we’re building a lasting relationship, I’ll go back to being a mentor.”

Law went 1-9 in the SCC in 2015. The Lawmen will travel to Guilford on Friday at 7 p.m. The Indians are coming off a 2-8 campaign, including a 24-12 win over Law in week two.

“Guilford is like us in that they are playing a lot of athletes in a number of new spots,” Larka said. “On film, we are evenly matched teams. We have eight or nine guys back on either side of the ball. We are putting them in the best positions to succeed.”

Law will run a spread offense, with some base packages thrown in the mix.

Jake Mola, Mitchell Smith and Dennis Theis are senior captains.

Mola and Theis will be at linebacker and Smith returns at quarterback.

“Having Mitchell and junior Andrew Paulus back as a quarterback-center combo is a real plus,” Larka said. “The right side of our offensive line with juniors Dave Tortora and Storm Furtado is experienced. On the left side we have junior Justin Abe at guard. We are rotating three guys in at tackle. The skills are there, now they have to be pieced together.”

Senior Joe Mugford and sophomore Mike Plaskon will line up alongside Smith in the backfield.

“Mugsy has good speed and experience; Mike has all the tools needed as a running back,” Larka said. “Sophomore Ethan Saley and juniors Dean Pettway and Hayden Hulme will be the receivers.”

Cole Egersheim will be the placekicker.

Law’s 4-3 base defense will be adjusted as the season goes along.

“Right now, we want to have our players where they need to be to play football and attack,” Larka said. “We have a lot of two-way guys and we will spoonful them different schemes.”

Tortora, Abe, sophomore Sheldon Gargano and Chance Montanari will be on the defensive line.

Junior Alex Pratcher will be with Mola and Theis at linebacker.

Pettway, junior Jimmy Boyle, Saley and Mugsford man the secondary.

“We’ll be putting as much time on X’s and O’s as the top programs, but to me building relationships and being there for the players is the way to go. I’m not here for them only on Friday nights. I’m here twelve months of the year.”

Law will return home to play East Haven on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m.