Players in rivalry greet each other with respect
As the Foran High and Jonathan Law players faced each other for the post-game award ceremony following one of the best high school football games played in years on Thanksgiving morning, a sense of mutual admiration had a tangible feel to it.
Law had just come from behind to beat Foran, 34-28, and found out within minutes after the victory that they had earned a berth in the CIAC Class M state playoffs.
For Foran players, it meant the end of what was a fall-short season, one which started out with aspirations of making those same playoffs that the Lawmen were now going to.
There were mixed feelings in the air, but not a hint of animosity.
It was marked the end, at least for now, of a long career in coaching high school football for Foran coach Jeff Bevino. Bevino came to Foran in 2006, suffered through some tough seasons, then began to instill in his players a feel for doing things the right way. Bevino had stints at Fairfield Ludlowe, Milford Academy and Notre Dame of Fairfield before reaching Foran. He finished with a 9-3 record against his city rival. He had won nine straight before the 2017 loss.
"I want to tip my hat to you, Coach Bevino," said Law second-year coach Erik Larka, an alumnus of Law who first worked as an assistant under Mark Robinson at the school, then moved on to Bacon Academy in Colchester before returning in 2016. "So much was what we've tried to accomplishment here has been modeled after what you've done at Foran. You've set the bar very high. We're still trying to reach it."
Ironically, the only Milford city school to reach the playoffs was Foran in 2001 under Joe Beler.
Likewise, Bevino had praise for Law.
"As a city resident, I'm proud of your accomplishments," Bevino said. "You and your coaching staff have turned your program into a winner. I'll be rooting for you next week and beyond."
Bevino then presented his game awards.
Offensive lineman Ryan Zornoch was presented the Mario Ponsalle Award and the Joe Beler Award went to Todd Gentley.
Jared Hubler, who rushed for 172 yards on 28 carries while scoring three of his teams' four touchdowns, received the Ken Walker Memorial Award as his team’s MVP.
The Daniel Wasson Memorial Award went to Max Tavitian and Matt Kennedy took home the Michael Miller Memorial Award. Matt Cruz received the Ray Bloxsom Milford High Remembrance Top Lineman Award.
On the Law side, Ryan Pisacane received the Robert Taylor Award for sportsmanship and the Lawman Alumni Trophy went to Ethan Saley.
Defensive player of the game honors was taken home by Dean Pettway and Justin Abe was chosen as the Ray Bloxsom Milford High Remembrance Top Lineman Award recipient.
Nate Merchant was chosen as the Les Beulieau Unsung Hero and Mike Plaskon was presented the Teddy Paul Kostopoulos Award as team MVP.
Larka was so impressed by his offensive line's play that he plans to go out this week and get each one of them individual trophies. His offensive line was comprised of Justin Abe, Storm Furtado, Andrew Paulus, Austin Danville and Dave Tortora.
Larka says he's never coached a harder working player than Abe, who has followed in his brother Austin's footsteps at Law.
"He didn't play on that many winning teams, if any at all," the younger Abe said. "But he was an inspiration. I set out to change that. Today, it was all about having faith in each other. We always have each other's backs out there."
If one had to chose a game MVP, it would have to be Hubler. After going down with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the third quarter, he re-appeared in the game and eventually scored his team’s final touchdown.
"I've always been proud to put on this jersey," Hubler said. "Our coaches do so much for us. Whether we won or lost today, I'll always be a Foran kid."