CANTON >> This was one of those nights that football fans in Canton had dreamed about for years. Not only was Canton High taking the field under the lights on a Friday night, but the Warriors were doing it at home in front of their own fans.
A decade ago, football in Canton was just a dream. Now, it’s a reality.
Canton played its first-ever night game at home last week on its new multi-purpose facility, easily dispatching Lewis Mills, 42-6 before an estimated 800 fans – the largest crowd to see the Warriors play since the team was resurrected in 2006.
Canton’s Terrance Brophy ran for two touchdowns and a game-high 101 yards on 10 carries. QB Eric Scott, who scored his first touchdown of the season, completed 4-of-5 passes for 99 yards and two touchdown passes.
Canton (6-3) limited Lewis Mills to minus 14 yards rushing in the game. In the first half, Mills had just three yards of offense. The Warriors forced five Mills turnovers, intercepting four passes and recovering a fumble.
Mills did have a moment to smile about when Max Stone ran back a fumble 100 yards in the second quarter. Mills’ QB Trevor Baker completed 12-of-19 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Most of the yardage came in the second once the game had long been decided.
This was a night of smiles for Canton. The Warriors recognized 11 seniors on Senior Day. And it was the first athletic contest at the facility, constructed as part of a $3.6 million project to rebuild the high school parking lot, install a multi-purpose football field and install an eight-lane track and field facility.
Friends of Canton Football, the booster club that funds the football and girls lacrosse program, paid for the portable lights to illuminate the field and portable bleachers. They also built some temporary staging for the public address announcer and coaches.
“It was awesome,” Scott said. “It was incredible to playing here for the first game on the turf. I was honored to be honest.”
Canton running back Dan Delos said, “It was amazing. We are blessed to have this field to play on. We’re very grateful to the town and Friends of Canton Football for raising the money for this. We’ll put it to good use.”
A.J. Zukowski, president of Friends of Canton Football, said, “It was almost surreal it was so exciting. So many people stepped up to make this happen.”
The place was buzzing. Hundreds stood along the fence surrounding the field to watch the game while dozens of fans from Lewis Mills went to the far side of the facility to watch the game. One group of fans, whose property overlooks the field, huddled around an open fire and set up a few lawn chairs to view the contest.
On the field, Canton dominated from the beginning. Lewis Mills (2-7) lost a combined total of 17 yards on its first three drives while the Warriors scored on their first three drives to take a 21-0 lead.
Scott scored his first touchdown of the season on a 44-yard run with 7:04 left in the first quarter. “It’s a fast field,” he said. “The players move more quickly (on this field) and you have a better vision of the field.”
Following the touchdown, Canton’s Cam Daley recovered an onside kick. Three plays later, Jake Wood caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Scott for a 14-0 lead with 5:27 gone in the opening quarter.
Canton freshman Keegan Toland and sophomore Matt Bangs sacked Mills’starting QB Lucas Lanning for a nine-yard loss to force a punt. On its next drive, Brophy scored from the 11-yard line for a 21-0 advantage with 42 seconds left in the first quarter.
On its next possession, Canton’s Sebby Gumbs ran 23 yards on first down and Brophy scored with a 17-yard run on the next play for a 28-0 lead with 9:59 left.
Later in the second quarter, Daley intercepted a Lanning pass and returned it 54 yards to the Lewis Mills 1-yard line. He nearly scored but was kept out of the end zone with a big hit. On the next play, Brophy was hit at the line of scrimmage and the ball popped up into the air to Stone, who was two yards deep in the end zone.
Stone leaped over a Canton defender and got a nice block from a teammate to run the distance of the field for a 100 yard fumble return for a touchdown and a school record that will never be broken. Scoring rules for high school football don’t recognize any run longer than 100 yards – even if you begin your run in the end zone.
On the extra point, Mills’ Aris Artemiadis hit the upright and the ball bounced away, cutting the Canton lead to 28-6 with 3:35 remaining in the second quarter.
Gumbs, who intercepted two passes, pulled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Scott to extend the Canton lead to 35-6 with 2:41 left in the second quarter.
“We’re not a bad football team when we execute and play smart,” Canton coach Paul Philippon said. “We had a few fumbles and we’re trying to work on that in practice but for the most part, we played smart football tonight.
“The team wanted to christen the field the right way tonight,” he said.
Canton has two games remaining. The Warriors played at Enfield on Thursday night. They conclude the season on Thanksgiving Eve at Granby for a 6:30 p.m. start on Nov. 27.
“Our goal is to play up to what we can be,” Scott said. “We need to know our jobs and do our jobs.”
NOTES: It was the first-ever game between the two schools. … Canton improved to 4-1 in the Pequot Western Division with Mills slipping to 1-4. … With the first game on a new field, here are some of the notable firsts from the game.
First run – Max Stone, Lewis Mills, 4 yards
First pass completion – Jake Wood, Canton, 17 yards from Eric Scott
First TD – Eric Scott, Canton, 44 yard run
First TD reception –Jake Wood, Canton, 39 yards from Scott
First fumble recovery – Trevor Watts, Lewis Mills
First interception – Cam Daley, Canton, 54 yard return
Canton 42, Lewis Mills 16
Lewis Mills (2-7) 0 6 0 10 — 16
Canton (6-3) 21 14 7 0 — 42
C: Eric Scott 44 run (Eddie Melton kick), 7:04
C: Jake Wood 39 pass from Scott (Melton kick), 5:27
C: Terrance Brophy 11 run (Melton kick), 0:42
C: Brophy 17 run (Melton kick), 9:59
LM: Max Stone 100 fumble return (kick fails), 3:35
C: Sebby Gumbs 39 pass from Scott (Melton kick), 2:41
C: Dan Delos 13 run (Melton kick), 5:11
LM: Safety. Cameron McHale tackles runner in end zone, 3:02
LM: Justin Pease 18 pass from Trevor Baker (Dom Jankowski pass from Baker), 0:18
RUSHING: Canton – Eric Scott 2-42, Manny Harden 5-minus 2, Eddie Melton 4-7, Brock Steinfeldt 1-6, Mekiah Davis 1-0, Mike Amoroso 2-10, Dan Delos 7-49, Terrance Brophy 10-101, Sebby Gumbs 4-27; Lewis Mills – Lucas Lanning 5-minus 15, Max Stone 15-1
PASSING: Canton – Eric Scott 4-5-0, 99; Lewis Mills – Lucas Lanning 2-7-2, 31; Trevor Baker 12-19-2, 134
RECEIVING: Canton – Jake Wood 2-56, Sebby Gumbs 2-43; Lewis Mills – Max Stone 1-16, Justin Pease 2-33, Dom Jankowski 8-92, Griffin Hayes 1-3, Matt Rinkus 2-15
PUNT RETURNS – Cam Daley (C) 1-10; KICKOFF RETURNS – Eddie Melton (C) 1-0, Cam Daley (C) 1-15; Cullin Kennedy 4-52, Bill Yeager 1-0, Griffin Hayes 2-27
SACKS: Keegan Toland (C) and Matt Bangs (C) 1-9, Shane Toland (C) 1-9; Cameron McHale (LM) 1-2
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Trevor Watts (LM), Max Stone (LM), Henry Bonini (C)
INTERCEPTIONS: Cam Daley (C) 1-54, Sebby Gumbs (C) 2-39, Keith Wilson (C) 1-0