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Gilbert spoils return to campus for Warriors

Above, hundreds of fans saw the Warriors host Gilbert with the first home game on campus in 45 years. Gilbert prevailed the game, 12-7.

Above, hundreds of fans saw the Warriors host Gilbert with the first home game on campus in 45 years. Gilbert prevailed the game, 12-7.

CANTON – The ole Canton High campus was buzzing Saturday.

On the lower field near Mills Pond, the Canton field hockey team was hosting Cheshire in its season-opening contest amidst the warm sun on a very comfortable afternoon. As they have for years, fans spread themselves along the hill and on the sidewalk to cheer on the Warriors.

A few thousand feet away, a new tradition began as the Warrior football team hosted its first game on campus in 45 years on a newly-renovated field on the west side of campus. Hundreds of fans and students flocked to the field to see if Canton could beat the Gilbert/Northwestern co-op squad and win its first season opening contest since 1958.

There were two exciting and competitive games. Unfortunately, both Canton teams suffered difficult defeats. The field hockey team fell to Cheshire, 2-1 on a last-second goal. The football team struggled to keep its offense on the field in a 12-7 loss to Gilbert.

In field hockey, Cheshire scored in the first five minutes but Canton scored with about seven minutes left in the first half when Kassie Grecula got free on a breakaway and rifled a shot into the net from about 15 yards away. On a Cheshire breakway late in the final minute of the first half, Canton goalie Robin Donaldson made a tremendous save, diving to her left to make the save seconds before the Cheshire attacker fell over her.

Canton coach Sarah Beaudin saw some positives, despite the loss. “We were able to come together, regain our composure and play a good game,” she said. “We had plenty of opportunities. Being prepared to take that shot in the circle is something we’re working on.” 

Canton QB Nick Grabowski works up field in Saturday's season opening loss to Gilbert.

Canton QB Nick Grabowski works up field in Saturday’s season opening loss to Gilbert.

On the gridiron, Canton football team was finally home after a long journey that began in 1964 when the team disbanded at mid-season due to dwindling enrollment at Canton High. A dedicated group of parents helped organize a club team in 2006. The team blossomed into a varsity team in 2007 that played all 10 games on the road. A year ago, Canton played its home games at the Mills Pond Recreation Complex.

Two costly fumbles helped stymie the Canton offense. The Warriors coughed up the ball on the Gilbert 20-yard line early in the second quarter and did it again on the Gilbert 4-yard line with 6:47 left in the game.

“We made some crucial mistakes at crucial times,” Canton coach Roger Pearl said. “You have to be on the field to score. Our defense was on the field for the whole game.”

The visiting Yellowjackets were able to shut down the Canton running game and Mike Frazer, the leading rusher from a year ago. Frazer had six carries for minus three yards. Canton had just 26 yards of offense and one first down in the first half.

“Our plan was to stop Frazer and force them into doing other things,” Gilbert coach Scott Salius said. “We wanted to force them to pass more.”

Still, Gilbert only had a 6-0 lead at halftime. They extended the lead to 12-0 early in the fourth quarter.

Canton had a chance when Frazer sacked Gilbert QB Bobby Lippincott for a 12-yard loss on the Yellowjacket 13-yard line on fourth down after a bad snap on a punt with 6:58 remaining in the game. After one play and a pair of Gilbert penalties, Canton had the ball on the four-yard line.

And they promptly fumbled it away.

Gilbert didn’t go far but ate up nearly three minutes before punting the ball away. Nick Quattro’s 27-yard return gave the Warriors on the Gilbert 18. Canton QB Nick Grabowski found Tyler Plourd for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 3:10 to go. Jeff Nasson’s extra point cut the lead to 12-7.

Canton had one last chance, getting the ball on its own 24 with 1:38 left but Gilbert’s Ryan Essepi intercepted a third down Grabowski pass with 55 seconds left to seal the win.

The game was scoreless in the second quarter when Nick Quattro returned an interception 35 yards to the Gilbert 20-yard line. Canton coughed up the ball on its next play and Gilbert responded with a 14-play, 81-yard scoring drive. Key plays included Gilbert converting on fourth-and-one from their own 28-yard line and a 20-yard pass from Lippincott to Ross Lopardo.

NOTES: Injuries didn’t help the Warriors. Starting center Cole Murphy was out with a concussion. Backup Josiah Durbois got hurt early in the first half. … Graham Martin, who coached the 2006 club team and the first varsity team in 2007, flipped the coin at midfield to decide who got the ball first. Gilbert won the toss. … Gilbert’s Ryan Essepi blocked a punt from Nate Scott late in the second quarter. … Scott blocked an extra point attempt following Gilbert’s first touchdown. …

Gilbert 12, Canton 7

At Winsted

Gilbert/NWR (1-0) 0 6 0 6 — 12
Canton (0-1) 0 0 0 7 –   7

Second quarter
G: Devin Morgan 13 run (kick blocked), 4:46
Fourth quarter
G: Bobby Lippincott 9 run (run fails), 11:53
C: Tyler Plourd 18 pass from Nick Grabowski (Jeff Nasson kick), 3:10
Individual statistics
RUSHING: Canton – Nick Grabowski 10-27, Mike Frazer 6-minus 3, Greg Cole 4-15, Sam Hartzell 2-11; Gilbert – Devin Morgan 18-87, Kyle Jones 9-22, Bobby Lippincott 12-13, Delany Morgan 13-50, Geoff Cersoli 1-6, Ryan Essepi 1-0
PASSING: Canton – Nick Grabowski 2-6-1, 39; Gilbert – Bobby Lippincott 4-12-1, 49
RECEIVING: Canton – Tyler Plourd 2-39; Gilbert – Kyle Jones 1-8, Ross Lopardo 1-20, Casey Ramthun 1-14, Delany Morgan 1-5
RETURNS: Canton – Plourd 2-7 (punt), 2-28 (kickoff); Nick Quattro 1-27 (punt); Gilbert — Drew McCarthy 1-0 (punt), Sean Fitzgerald 1-0 (kickoff)
INTERCEPTIONS: Nick Quattro (C) 1-35; Ryan Essepi (G) 1-0
SACKS: Nate Scott (C) 2-13, Thomas Cruz (C) 1-2; Zach Gain (G) 1-7, Kyle Jones (G) 1-5
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Thomas Cruz (C) 1, Bobby Lippincott (G), Josh Penn (G)
PENALTIES: Canton 2-25, Gilbert 8-47

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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