GRANBY >> There were plenty of thrilling moments for the Canton High football team this fall.
It began on opening day when Canton forced a fumble, marched 69 yards in nine plays in 2:39 and scored on the final play of the game to beat Avon for the first time, 16-13. Against Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton, the Warriors scored 14 unanswered points and stopped an attempted two-point conversion with no time left on the clock for a one point victory.
Canton posted back-to-back seven win seasons for the first time. They were challengers for the Pequot West Division championship and were contenders for a spot in the Class S tournament.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they didn’t finish the season with a victory. Granby erased a 13-point deficit and behind sophomore running back Dominic Pagano, the Bears won the battle for the ceremonial red, old milk jug with a 21-19 decision on Thanksgiving Eve.
Pagano scored three touchdowns and ran for a game-high 143 yards. He had a stellar evening, breaking tackles throughout the game. He had two big runs on fourth down on Granby’s second quarter drive that cut the Canton lead to six points at halftime. Pagano scored on a fourth down run from the four on the final play of the first half.
“I told them that a bad game doesn’t erase everything they’ve done this year,” Canton coach Paul Philippon said. “They had a great year and they’ve had back-to-back great years. They played their hearts out. They didn’t play their best game and Granby certainly outplayed us.”
The Warriors scored a school-record 313 points this season, breaking the old record set a year ago by 96 points. Dan Delos set a new single season school record with 14 touchdowns while QB Eric Scott set a new record with 11 touchdown passes. Scott is just the second Canton quarterback to throw for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
Scott leaves with career records for passes completed (129), passing yards (2,171) and touchdowns (20).
Terrance Brophy ran for 936 yards and 10 touchdowns while Delos gained 737 yards. Sophomore Eddie Melton established a new single season kicking record with 31 points (28 extra points, 1 field goal)
Defensively, Sebastian Gumbs had seven interceptions and Cam Daley had five. The Warrior defense forced 25 turnovers this season (14 interceptions, 11 fumbles). Daley led the team with 106 tackles followed by Henry Bonini with 94. Shane Toland had 60 stops.
All season, Philippon praised the players on his team. “People think we just turned this around,” he said. “We inherited these players. We’re blessed to have the kids we do. They want to work hard and they’re willing to work.”
Canton came close to pulling off a win against Granby. Trailing by two points, the Warriors had a first down on the Granby 27-yard line with 1:12 remaining. But the drive imploded. A fumble, two dropped passes and an overthrown pass ended the series, the threat to score and the game.
Brophy led the Warriors (7-4, 4-2 Pequot West) with 95 yards on 23 carries while Scott completed 5-of-15 passes for 90 yards and one interception. Daley scored twice on touchdown runs and intercepted a pass.
The first half was played in a slow but steady rain with occasional hail stinging the cheeks of players and fans. In the second half, there were some snow flurries.
Canton took a 13-0 lead by scoring on two of its first three drives of the game. The Warriors marched 56 yards on nine plays on its opening drive with Daley scoring from the 13-yard line with 7:21 left in the first quarter. Eddie Melton’s extra point made it 7-0.
On Canton’s third drive of the game, Brophy was the workhorse, carrying the ball six times on an 11-play, 70-yard drive. He picked up a key first down, gaining two yards on a fourth and one play at the Granby 27-yard line to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Scott found Jake Wood behind a Granby defender for a 25-yard touchdown pass and a 13-0 lead with 2:28 left in the first half.
Granby showed their resolve, marching 68 yards to get on the scoreboard with no time left in the second quarter. Bear quarterback Curtis Field, who had a rough start completing just one of his first seven passes, completed a 15-yard pass to his brother, Connor Field, and a 20-yard pass to Ian Downey to help Granby quickly move into Canton territory.
A 14-yard run from Pagano put the ball on the Canton 19 with 40 seconds left. Three plays later, Pagano picked up five yards on fourth down and three with 28 seconds left to keep the drive alive. He scored three plays later from the four as Granby trailed at the half, 13-7.
Granby (6-5, 4-2 Pequot West) scored on its first drive of the third quarter, marching 69 yards on seven plays. Pagano had a 34-yard run to the Canton nine to set up his nine-yard touchdown run that gave Granby a 14-13 lead after Matthew Holmes’ extra point.
On the strength of a 42-yard kickoff return from Sebby Gumbs and a 24-yard run from Brophy, Canton quickly regained the lead, 19-14, with a two-yard touchdown run from Daley with 3:34 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion run failed, swallowed up by the Granby defense.
Granby took a 21-19 lead with 8:48 left in the game on Pagano’s 11-yard run, breaking a few tackles along the way.
“They did a good job of moving us around,” Philippon said. “They were clearly knocking us around.”
After a 0-3 start to the season, the Bears went 6-2 over the final eight weeks of the season, losing to only Avon and Coginchaug.
NOTES: This was the third game in the Thanksgiving series that began in 2011. Each team had won once before. … With his 143 yards, Pagano became the first Granby High football player to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. … Three touchdowns in a single game was a new career-high for Pagano. … With the win, Granby, Avon and Canton each finished tied for second place in the Pequot West Division at 4-2 behind divisional champion Gilbert/Northwestern.
Granby 21, Canton 19
Canton (7-4) 7 6 6 0 — 19
Granby (6-5) 0 7 7 7 — 21
C: Cam Daley 13 run (Eddie Melton kick), 7:21
C: Jake Wood 25 pass from Eric Scott (kick wide), 2:28
G: Dominic Pagano 4 run (Matthew Holmes kick), 0:00
G: Pagano 9 run (Holmes kick), 7:49
C: Daley 2 run (run fails), 3:34
G: Pagano 11 run (Holmes kick), 8:48
RUSHING – Granby: Dominic Pagano 15-143, Connor Field 2-8, Gage Fiorentino 7-37; Canton – Eric Scott 2-0, Terrence Brophy 23-95, Cam Daley 9-51, Dan Delos 5-23, Sebby Gumbs 4-19
PASSING: Granby – Curtis Field 6-17-1, 76; Canton – Eric Scott 5-15-1, 90
RECEIVING: Granby – Ian Downey 2-33, Connor Field 3-36, Gage Fiorentino 1-3, Dominic Pagano 1-4; Canton – Sebby Gumbs 2-27, Cam Daley 2-38, Jake Wood 1-12
KICKOFF RETURNS: Sebby Gumbs (C) 2-76, Jake Wood (C) 1-12; Ian Downey (G) 3-47; INTERCEPTIONS: Cam Daley (C) 1-18, Dominic Pagano 1-2