Football: Jonathan Law's defense steps up

Defense hasn't been a strong suit for the Jonathan Law football team since its last glory days back in 2007, when the Lawmen posted a 9-1 record with the only defeat coming against Fairfield Prep and nearly earned a berth in the state playoffs.

Since then, through losing seasons, Law had been able to score. Defensively, the team would simply give up too many points.

Now that Erik Laska has arrived as the new coach, defense has been looked at a little differently.

Last Friday night, the Lawmen dug in on defense and held their opponent Creed (formerly the Hyde Leadership School), Career and Whitney Tech co-op team to six points in a 22-6 home-field win.

The win in a game played under conditions that weren't favorable as light, but steady rain fell throughout the game and the winds kept blowing for a high-scoring contest, Law evened its record at 2-2 heading into this Friday night's home game against Wilbur Cross of New Haven.

Law certainly isn't big on defense. In fact, probably it's best player is middle linebacker Jake Mola, one of the captains. Mola is 5-foot-11 and weighs just 165 pounds. But, he's a hitter.

Led by Mola, Law's defense completely stifled the Howling Wolves in the second half, limiting CCW to only 30 yards and never allowing them to reach midfield.

"Our goal, right from the start of the season, was to shut teams out in the second half," said Mola, a second-year starter. "Tonight, our defense really stepped up when the offense had a bit of an off-night. If we can continue to play at a high level on defense and our offense is clicking, anything is possible with this team."

Mola got help on defense from a secondary that included Nate Merchant and Jimmy Boyle and Justin Abe and Austin Danville up front.

The Howling Wolves scored their only touchdown on the second to the last play of the first quarter. Running a sweep, Neal Eley made a good cut back through the middle and raced 76 yards to score.

"We were almost there on that play," Laska said. "We missed one tackle. Otherwise, we would've had containment on the play."

Trailing 6-0, Law got its offense going in the game's second 12-minute period.

Following the CCW kickoff after the score, the Lawmen took over at their 27.

After a 5-yard run by quarterback Mitchell Smith, Smith dropped back and completed a 4-yard out pass to Hayden Hulme. On the next play, Hulme got open and Smith delivered. The play worked for a 34-yard gain and came on a third-and-one situation from the Law 29-yard line.

With the ball on the Howling Wolves' 36-yard line, Smith then got the ball to the CCW 27. Stopped on three attempts to get another first down, Law went for it on a fourth-and-one from the 27. Smith gained two yards for the first down.

After gaining only six yards and with the ball on the CCW 21, Law ran a counter with Michael Plaskon getting the ball. Plaskon got all the way to the three before being brought down. Sheldon Gargano then got the call and went the needed three yards to tie the game at 6-6.

Law chose to go for the two points with Smith's pass falling short of its intended mark.

Law took the lead, 12-6, on a 9-yard run by Smith at 2:38. The Lawmen put together an 81-yard, eight-play drive featured by completions of 29 yards to Ethan Saley and 32 yards to Merchant.

Smith, who completed 9 of 23 passes for 142 yards, hooked up with captain Dennis Theis for a 4-yard TD at 6:57 of the third quarter.

Law's final points came on a safety.

"We put in a couple of running packages even before we knew that the weather wasn't going to be good," Laska said. "Obviously, when they scouted us they must've seen how much we like to throw the ball. Tonight we felt comfortable being a more run-happy team."

Plaskon led the running attack, picking up 62 yards on 13 carries while Gargano had 34 yards on seven carries.

Law, behind an offensive line of Justin Abe, Dave Tortora, Andrew Paulus, Hunter Stebbins and Ryan Mola,  had a total offense of 264 yards (142 passing and 122 running).

Big pass-play completions created most of the yardage.

"It wasn't a great night to throw the ball," Laska said. "I thought Mitch did a credible job. We had a lot of dropped balls because it was wet."

Now the Lawmen must prepare for Cross, a 52-7 winner over Lyman Hall of Wallingford. The Governors are 2-1.

"We know that they have an explosive offense and can throw the ball and run well to the outside," Jake Mola said. "Again, we'll need a good defensive effort."

That word defense seems to be popping up quite often at Law High this year.