Law football coach Chris Haley using history as way to revive elite status

Sixty years ago, a team took the football field at Jonathan Law for the first time. There were stones hidden on a grass field with uneven lines that challenged the first down markers.

Current Law coach Chris Haley is mining for the black gold that made those teams legendary in Devon.

Milford High seniors would finish out their final football season in 1961. All other students honored residential boundaries, with some headed to the new school on Lansdale Avenue.

Excellence followed as Devon’s own ruled the gridiron. The sounds of cleats hitting the pavement reached crowds before they saw players making the long walk down the hill behind coach Vito DeVito to the cavern-like field.

“There is so much history to this program. Those teams in the 60s and 70s set the bar, a high bar. That was dominant 15-year period. We are going to fight every day to get it back there,” Haley said. “We are just one chapter in a story that began 60 years ago. There are going to be 60 more chapters after us.”

DeVito coached Law from 1961-72. His first group of seniors finished 7-1-1 and won the Metropolitan Bridgeport Interscholastic Athletic Conference (MBIAC) title. Dan Walker, Law’s first All-State selection, was a star running back. Bob Estock, Bob Taylor and Bob Sennett captained a team that included Andy Pace, Bernie Werner, Dick Janes, Bill Riley and Chris Wright.

Law played and beat Bunnell 12-0 for the MBIAC championship in heavy rain and muddy conditions. Walker scored on runs of three and 15 yards. Janes had an interception and Pace a fumble recovery.

“We are sharing stories on those teams with our kids,” said Haley, who recently opened a Jonathan Law Football Alumni Page on Facebook. “Our players say ‘Wow, people are interested in us?’ I told them that this team means so much to the people of Devon.

“Those guys in the 60s, 70s, and early 90s, the way they talk about Law football,” Haley added. “They don’t talk about winning this game or that game. They talk about what it meant to wear the Law jersey. About playing on grass and broken glass.”

Law returned to football glory in 1967 when they gained a share of the MBIAC title, going 7-1-1. Hilary Estock and quarterback Bernie Robillard were co-captains. George Pfiel, Bob Listorti, Jack Flynn and Jim Bullett also starred.

The 1968 Lawmen went 8-2 as Bob Perschel (who later starred at Yale), Pete Pietrini, George Dimitruk and Joe Injaychock were the leaders.

Russ Pietrini was named All-State in 1969. With stars Jim Ryan, Bill Jaques and Dick Silva the Devonites went 9-1.

It was more success in 1970, as All-Stater Joe Cileno led Law to a 6-3 record. Walt Nichols and Brad Brown were standouts.

Barry Baker, Chris Dunne and Lou Pietrini were All State in 1971 when Law finished 9-1. Glenn Valentine, Steve Rochette, Bill Lister, Wes Brown, Nick Catapano, Bernie Giorgio, Wayne Mohyer, Rich Robillard, Dana Tweedie and Jeff Granowsky starred.

Current Law players were reminded of that success the first week of fall practice.

“Mike DeVito gave us the 1971 MBIAC championship plaque and scrapbook of his father’s stuff from the early years here at Law when we started practice,” Haley said. “It was a great thing for our kids and we as coaches. We are going to have Vito’s name on the back of our helmets.”

Haley said: “Those players talk with such reverence about those days. There is a level of history there. It is exciting to share it with them. That was a feared program for a long time. My goal is to get that brand of football back.”

Haley wants Law to be a program that no opponent wishes to see on its schedule.

“Great programs may not win a championship every year, but no one wants to play them,” he said. “They play every play like that is the play that can win the game.”

Law opens its season at Guilford on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. Twitter: @blox354