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A new tradition growing with Thanksgiving football in the Valley

football graphicTraditionally, the Farmington Valley has been one of the few areas of Connecticut where high school football on Thanksgiving Day hasn’t taken root. That is beginning to change with four of six Valley teams playing on Thursday morning in season-ending contests.

Canton hosts Granby, Farmington hosts Plainville with a Class L tournament berth on the line and Lewis Mills is looking for its first win of the season. Avon and Simsbury (6-4) have completed their regular season campaigns with Avon (10-0) waiting to find out who they will play in the quarterfinals of the Class L tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Simsbury played a handful of Thanksgiving Day games against Windsor in the early 1980s and faced Glastonbury on Thanksgiving Eve last year. But for most years, the season ended the Saturday before Thanksgiving for the Trojans.

Farmington played some Turkey Day games in the 1930s and 1940s before playing Rocky Hill on Thanksgiving in 2007. The Indians began its current Thanksgiving series with Plainville last year, winning 31-6.

Canton, which had a varsity team from 1934-64, played two Thanksgiving Day contests in 1935 and 1936, beating a team of alumni players in both contests. Through the 1930s, it was common for high school football and basketball teams to face an alumni team at some point of the season. The Warriors began its current Thanksgiving series with Granby last year.

For years, Avon’s final contest of the season was against rival Farmington but it was always played on the final Saturday before Thanksgiving. The Falcons have never played on Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, Nov. 22 (Thanksgiving)

Plainville (3-6) at Farmington (7-2), 10 a.m. Farmington needs a win to keep its CIAC Class L playoff hopes alive and its first post-season bid since 1999. The Indians need to beat Plainville and have Maloney (3-6) beat cross-town rival Platt High (7-2) to grab the eighth and final spot in the Class L tournament. After a 6-0 start, the Indians lost to a pair of top 10 teams — Windsor (34-14) and Middletown (14-6) before rebounding to beat Bulkeley, 55-6. QB Kenny Jones (46-83-5, 862, 9 TDs) is a dynamic playmaker who can throw the ball or run. He is the second leading rusher with 574 yards and 7 TDs. RB Ivan Guadalupe has run for over 1,000 yards and 14 TDs. Anthony Carpenter is the top receiver (28 receptions, 597 yards, 5 TDs). Mitch Berlandy (105) and Ben Rossetti (69) lead the team in tackles. Plainville has won two in a row against two of the smaller teams in the Central Connecticut Conference – Rockville and Weaver, which has only 16 players on its roster. The Blue Devils trailed by six going into the fourth quarter before slipping past Weaver, 23-22. R.J. Gross is the top back for the Blue Devils. Tyler Pina and Marc DeMartinis are the top defenders for Plainville. Series: Began 1930. Plainville leads 24-23-1. Thanksgiving series: Began 2011. Farmington leads 1-0

Lewis Mills (0-9, 0-9 Pequot Sassacus) at Nonnewaug (1-8, 1-8), 10 a.m. Lewis Mills is to salvage its season with a season-ending victory against Berkshire League rival Nonnewaug in the second year of this new Thanksgiving Day tradition. Mills won the debut game on Turkey Day a year ago, 26-7. Both teams have struggled to move the ball and score this season. Nonnewaug’s lone win was an 8-7 decision over East Hampton/Vinal Tech and in only one game have the Chiefs scored more than 1 TD when they had 14 points in a loss to Old Saybrook/Westbrook. QB Christian Metallo and running back John Gombos are players to watch for Nonnewaug. Mills has been shutout four times and the Spartans scored 14 points in losses to Old Saybrook and Cromwell. Justin Pease leads Mills at QB, completing 30-of-110 passes for 354 yards, 3 TDs and 9 interceptions. Mills moves the ball best through the air led by Dom Jankowski (17 receptions, 168 yards), Casey Ciemniewski (8-157, 2 TDs), Grant McGregor (10-137) and Thomas Krysar (9-82). Series and Thanksgiving Series: Began 2011. Lewis Mills leads, 1-0

Granby (4-5, 4-5 Pequot Uncas) at Canton (6-3, 6-3), 10:30 a.m. One year after going 0-10, Canton is looking to set a new single season school record for wins with a Thanksgiving Day victory over Granby. It is the first Thanksgiving Day game in Canton in 66 years since the Warriors beat an Alumni team in 1936. After winning just two games in its first two varsity seasons, Granby hopes to finish its third season with a fifth win. Junior QB Curtis Field had his best performance of the season on Nov. 10 against Stafford, completing 16 of 24 passes for 290 yards and 4 TDs. He has thrown for over 1,560 yards and 12 TDs for the Bears. His favorite target is Ian Downey (36 receptions, 490 yards, 5 TDs) along with Caleb McMullin (34-426, 3 TDs) and Ben Marlor (15-150). Stephen Blake is Granby’s top runner with 403 yards and 3 TDs on 96 carries. Granby has thrown the ball well in its four victories. However, turnovers (13 fumbles, 8 interceptions) have hampered the Bears. Defensively, Thomas Ullmann leads with 117 tackles with Blake getting 61. The Bears have 18 sacks and have 11 fumble recoveries. Canton’s strength this season has been its running game, led by Kyle Mullins, Dan Delos, Terrance Brophy and Jesse LaChance. The Warriors will have to stay away from turnovers and control the game offensively to keep Field and the Bear offense on the sideline. Defensively, Canton will have to play a hard-hitting disciplined brand of football. Look for big plays from Mullins, Patrick Lawlor, Henry Bonini and Cam Daley. Series: Began 2010. Tied 1-1. Thanksgiving Series: Began 2011. Granby leads, 1-0


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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