Football: Lawmen triumph on special night
On a night filled with surprises, some very pleasant and one totally unexpected, the Jonathan Law football team rolled to a non-conference 34-21 win over Bethel before a sizable home-opening crowd.
After falling behind early, 14-13, in the third quarter, the Lawmen strung together four touchdown drives to pull away from the Wildcats out of the South-West Conference.
Junior running back Mike Plaskon provided a majority of the offense, rushing for 225 yards on 25 carries (an impressive per-run average of nine yards) while catching three passes for an additional 45 yards.
Plaskon scored two touchdowns, on a 6-yard run and again on a 31-yard pass from junior quarterback Zach Smith.
"Michael had a good game against Sheehan (two scores in the season-opening loss)," said Law coach Erik Larka. "Tonight, he had a sensational game. He's really a special kid, a college-level player already. All he needs to do over the next two years is put on some weight.”
Overshadowed by Plaskon's performance was the one turned in by Smith, who stepped into the quarterback role this year. He was almost flawless, completing 11 of 12 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns.
Foreshadowing both was the pregame coin toss.
Law’s Cole Egersheim’s looked on in absolute disbelief as his father, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Joe Egersheim, disguised as a game official, greeted him at midfield before the opening toss. The elder Egersheim returned that day from a tour of duty in Kuwait. The two embraced along with Joe's daughter, Olivia, a Law cheerleader, before the ceremony.
Law's offense, which ran up 518 yards on the night, used the emotional moment as a springboard.
After Egersheim picked off a Tyler Davis pass on Bethel's first possession on the Law 40-yard line, Plaskon stepped right in, taking his first attempt 35 yards to the Bethel 25. A carry by Sheldon Gargano of eight yards brought the ball to the 17.
Three plays later, Plaskon found blocking daylight on the left side of his line and scampered six yards for the score. Egersheim's kick then made it a 7-0 game just 2:59 into the first quarter.
"I may have had a great game," Plaskon said. "But, if my line doesn't block for me, I'm not going anywhere. Coach trusted me with the ball tonight."
That line included four seniors, Storm Furtado, Dave Tortora, Andrew Paulus and Justin Abe, all three-year starters, along with Austin Danville, a junior.
Giving up an early touchdown didn't seem to deter the Wildcats, who dropped their opener to Weston, 33-17.
Davis, an option-style quarterback with good athletic skills, then led Bethel on an eight-play drive to the Law 37. Nathan Merchant stopped the Wildcats with a fumble recovery.
which began after a 19-yard kickoff return by Nathan O'Neill on the teams' 23-yard line. However, Law's defense came up with the stop when Davis fumbled away the ball on their opponent's 37-yard line.
Sparked by a 17-yard run from Plaskon, Law took the ball to the Bethel 37 but turned it over on downs.
From that point, Davis engineered the game's longest drive (14 plays covering 64 yards) and finished it off with a 4-yard TD run at 9:45 of the second quarter. Jaxon Millet's kick knotted the score.
On its next series, the Lawmen, went to the air.
A 25-yard completion from Smith to Hayden Hulme followed by an 18 yard gain on the ground by Plaskon (who had seven runs of 15 yards or longer) gave Law a first down on the Bethel 31.
Smith concluded the drive by throwing a 31-yard strike to Plaskon, who did his share by breaking several tackles en route to the end zone. The PAT kick went wide right as Law led, 13-7.
Bethel dominated play for the rest of the quarter, but the Wildcats weren't able to score. They used an on-sides kick and subsequent recovery at the start of the third quarter to initiate a short, three-play drive that led to a 2-yard TD run by Derek Lewis. Millet's kick gave Bethel a 14-13 lead.
Law countered on its next possession. Again Plaskon proved to be the catalyst. He ran 23 yards and Smith followed it up with a five yarder. With a first down at its own 48, Smith found Dean Pettway open down the right sideline. Pettway outran his defender to score with Egersheim adding the conversion for a 20-14 lead.
"It proved to be the turning point for us," said Larka, whose squad visits Bridgeport this Friday for a game against Bassick. "You could see the momentum building in their favor. But we were able to answer back."
From that point on, Law took over the game.
Smith's play opened up and exploited Bethel's defense.
His 4-yard TD pass to Ethan Saley made it 26-14 and an 11-yard strike to Hulme widened Law's margin to 33-14 early in the fourth quarter.
"We're a defensive team that's basically built to handle spread offenses," Larka said. "So we had difficulty at times tonight stopping them. Their quarterback (Davis) was very good.” Bethel had 263 offensive yards, most of it on the ground. Lewis carried 20 times for 69 yards while Davis picked up 64 on 19 rushes.
Still, the game belonged to Law and Plaskon's efforts.
"Patience, it's all about patience," he said. "Once the blocks are made, the holes are usually there."
They certainly were last Friday night.