Football: Lawmen shock Tier I Cheshire in overtime
Jonathan Law senior receiver Ethan Saley out jumped a Cheshire defender to haul in a 10-yard touchdown pass from classmate Zach Smith in the back-right corner of the end zone in overtime to lead the Lawmen to a 33-30 upset over Tier 1 SCC foe Cheshire in front of 700 at the Rams' Maclary Athletic Complex Friday night.
Law, a Class M and Tier 3 SCC football school, has now won two in a row and evened its record at 2-2.
Cheshire, a Class LL school, falls to 0-4, but lost its first three games on the road to 5th-ranked Shelton on a late touchdown, 8th-ranked Newtown and 13th-ranked North Haven.
Friday night marked the first time that a Tier 3 school beat a Tier 1 opponent, as both Law and East Haven (over Xavier) recorded upsets victories over their larger counterparts.
Tied 27-27 after regulation, Law won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first in the Kansas tiebreaker overtime period.
Starting from the Law 10-yard line, the Rams gained just one yard each on first and second down runs, and failed to complete a pass on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
Cheshire’s Jotham Casey converted on a 25-yard field goal, his third of the night, to give the Rams a 30-27 lead.
Law’s overtime possession also started from the 10-yard line, needing at least a field goal to continue or a touchdown to win.
Coach Erik Larka called the same play the Lawmen had tried early in the fourth quarter, a fade from Smith to Saley in the back-right corner of the end zone. That time Saley made a juggling catch, but was ruled by the officials to be out of bounds on a very close play.
“I had it in my head,” said Larka when it came time to call Law’s first overtime offensive play. “Zach came up to me and said ‘R4?’ I said, ‘That’s what I was thinking. Let’s do it.’
“If that was a 50-50, there was no way [the referees] weren’t going to call that one [a touchdown] after the other one they took from us.”
This time, the call wasn’t in doubt.
Saley clearly came down with the ball in his possession and in the end zone for the game-winning score.
“We all talked that they were probably the best 0-3 team in the state just because they played (unbeatens) Shelton, Newtown and North Haven, three powerhouses,” said Larka of Cheshire. “So, they’re a phenomenal 0-3 team. Cheshire was going to be pumped up. They were wounded as far as ego. We thought we were going to get their best shot.
"Obviously, we got their best shot, but it helps to have number 22 back in the lineup as well.”
Number 22 is Law senior tri-captain Michael Plaskon, an all-SCC Tier III performer a year ago who just returned to action after suffering a broken hand.
Plaskon had an interception on defense, and ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, including a touchdown with 3:25 left in regulation that pulled Law with a point, 27-26.
Larka chose to kick the PAT, and Spencer Hannon came through to tie the score 27-27.
“We were close to going for two in regulation, but I saw there was 3-and-a-half [minutes] left. If it was under two, I think I would went for two in regulation. But there was so much time, I was like, let’s see if we can get the ball back. Things worked out.”
Law never led until the game’s final play.
The Lawmen trailed 17-6 late in the second quarter.
The Lawmen’s other two touchdowns came on a Smith-to-Saley lateral pass, with Smith then throwing a forward pass to a wide-open Vinny Schulte that covered 85 yards, and another Smith-to-Saley connection spanning 46 yards.
Law’s defense gave up more than 400 yards, but came up with some key stops to keep Cheshire out of the end zone all but three times.
Standouts on defense included Plaskon (interception and sack), Austin Danville, Zach Merchant and Sheldon Gargano.
“We knew going in, the philosophy this year was bend, don’t break,” Larka said. “We knew we were going to give up yards, but if you can hold teams to field goal attempts in high school instead of touchdowns, then that’s a victory on defense as well.”
Offensively, Smith completed 13-of-25 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Saley caught a team-high six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and also threw for a TD on his only pass attempt.
Law’s offensive line of Nick Hanna, Danville, Ryan Mola, Zachary Gluhanic and Erik Borgerson helped the team amass 392 yards of offense.
Danville also punted four times for an average of 38 yards per kick.
The Lawmen enjoy a bye this week before returning to action hosting Stratford in an SCC-SWC contest on Oct. 12. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“We’ve got the bye week coming up so everyone can get healthy,” said Larka. “We’re missing [Naheim Washington] who was filling in for Plaskon, he’s out with a thumb injury, so he’ll be back after the bye. So, the Stratford game, you’ll finally see what we can do with a fully loaded offense.
“We knew going in, the philosophy this year was bend, don’t break. We knew we were going to give up yards, but if you can hold teams to field goal attempts in high school instead of touchdowns, then that’s a victory on defense as well.”