Law drops opener with Harding

Joe Ziebell ran for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Jonathan Law, but Harding High of Bridgeport scored 18 unanswered points in the second half to win a 32-14 decision in the season-opening SCC/FCIAC Challenge at Kennedy Stadium on Sept. 11.

“We made too many mistakes,” Law coach Mark Robinson said. “We didn’t execute well enough, but you have to give Jack Cochran (Harding coach) credit. He did an impressive job getting that team put together and they are good. They got athletes and they just needed the right coach.”

The key play in the game came late in the third period with Harding holding a 26-14 lead and Law in possession at its 14-yard line.

Ziebell went off left tackle and raced up the Law sideline toward pay dirt, but the Presidents’ Reggie David came across the field to track Ziebell down at the Harding 13.

David said, “Law showed they are very good and we couldn’t give back the momentum. Right there, I knew I couldn’t let them score.”

Law had to settle for a Mick Murray 34-yard field goal attempt that was ticked at the line of scrimmage by Xavier Bass and fell just short.

Tackles by Nick Casagrande, Chris Bellegarde, Max German and Timmy Maher forced a three-and-out.

The Lawmen couldn’t gain ground from the Harding 27, and the Presidents took over on the 26 with 10:17 remaining.

A 16-play, 74-yard drive that took 7:56 off the clock secured the Harding win.

After a scoreless first period, Harding took advantage of a short field and went yard-by-yard from the Law 38 to take a 6-0 lead on junior quarterback Christian Hopkins’ five-yard run on third and goal.

Mike DiBartolomeo and Casagrande stopped the two-point conversion try with 8:52 left in the first half.

Law answered with a 70-yard drive behind the blocking of Sam McTighe, Jimmy Davenport, Casagrande and Colin DiPisa.

On first down, Ziebell took a screen pass from Maher and followed a Davenport block for a 34-yard gain to the Harding 36.

On fourth-and-eight from the 40, Maher took two steps to his right as if to punt the ball, then tucked it in and raced for a first down at the 29.

Mark Thibault swept the left side for 14 yards, and when the tackle carried over to the track surrounding the field, a half-the-distance penalty brought the ball to the eight.

Ziebell scored on the next snap and Murray’s conversion kick gave Law a 7-6 lead with 6:43 remaining.

It was 14-7 Harding after D.J. Smith (125 yards) broke loose for a 51-yard score two plays into the next series.

Ziebell finished off Law’s next possession with a tackle-breaking 33-yard touchdown run, and Murray’s PAT tied the game at 14.

Maher intercepted a second-down pass off pressure by Mark Dow and returned it to the Harding 25 with 5:24 remaining in the half.

Ziebell ran for five and Thibault for 14, but his run was called back because of a blocking infraction. Moise Nyandu recovered a Law fumble to halt the threat.

German and DiBartolomeo combined to sack Hopkins and help force a punt.

Ziebell was at the second level of the Harding defense on a second-and-one carry from the President’s 42 when his helmet came off and the whistle sounded to stop play.

A fumble on the next play gave Harding back the ball and the teams went into the half deadlocked at 14.

“There was a lot of first-game stuff, and Joey had his helmet come off three times, including once when he was going for a touchdown,” Robinson said.

Law stopped Harding to start the third quarter, but a misplayed punt put the Lawmen back on their 13, rather than taking over in President territory.

After a three-and-out, Harding took advantage of the field-position gain to go 38 yards in four plays for a 20-14 lead.

Law’s next punt was partially blocked to give Harding possession at the 27, where a facemask penalty helped it go the distance in three plays to build a 26-14 advantage.

Law will play Wilbur Cross in New Haven at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Governors lost 34-12 to Brien McMahon of Norwalk in their opener.