CANTON – There was less than five minutes left on the clock on a glorious sunny Thanksgiving morning. The Canton High football team led Granby by 32 points but the intensity had not diminished within Warrior head coach Paul Philippon.
There was no coasting down the stretch. On his team, there is one way to play football – the correct way. Carry the ball incorrectly and you’ll take a seat on the bench watching a teammate get the carries. Turn the wrong way playing defense and you’ll hear about it.
“We want to do the little things right and let the big things take care of themselves,” he said.
A year after going 0-10, Canton senior Kyle Mullins ran for two touchdowns and 95 yards on 11 carries and the Warriors forced four Granby turnovers as Canton finished the season with a 7-3 record after a 38-12 victory over the Bears on Thanksgiving morning.
Dan Delos scored on a 37-yard run, Jake Wood caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Eric Scott, Jesse LaChance scored on a 5-yard run and freshman Eddie Melton kicked a pair of extra points – the first extra points by Melton this season.
Cam Daley, Sebby Gumbs and Delos each interecepted passes from Granby gunslinger Curtis Field, who completed a school record 25 passes out of 41 attempts for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns. Delos recovered a fumble caused by Gumbs that ended a Granby drive in the third quarter.
The seven wins sets a new single season record for victories and the Warriors had their best season, four games over .500, since 1958 when they won the North Central Football League championship and a CIAC Award of Merit with a 5-1 record.
“We did a lot of different things today and there was a lot of pressure for them to pickup the things we were doing on defense.” Philippon said. “The kids executed. We had some mistakes but (Field) is a quality kid and he has receivers all over the place.”
It was the first Thanksgiving Day football game in Canton in over 66 years. Canton beat the Warrior Alumni team in 1936 – an era when it was common for football and basketball teams to play against teams of graduates.
Canton (7-3, 7-3 Pequot Uncas) started off with a bang, scoring twice on its first two drives for a 16-0 lead.
Daley ended Granby’s initial drive intercepting a pass when Field overthrew his receiver. Daley returned the ball 25 yards on the Granby 45-yard line.
The two big plays on Canton’s initial scoring drive was a 11-yard reception by Jake Woods on third down and eight on the Bear 41 and a 20-yard run for a touchdown by Mullins on fourth and inches. A Mullins conversion run made it 8-0.
After a Granby punt, Gumbs returned the ball 12 yards to the Granby 45 but a penalty for a late hit placed the ball on the Bear 30-yard line. Two plays later, Canton QB Eric Scott found Jake Wood in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass. After another two-point conversion run from Mullins, Canton led 16-0.
Granby (4-6, 4-6 Pequot Uncas) cut the lead to 10 late in the second quarter thanks to a 16-play, 72-yard drive that was aided by two penalties against the Warriors. Granby caught a break when they took a gamble on fourth down and eight from its own 31 with a pass on a fake punt. Canton was called for pass interference on the play allowing the drive to continue.
Caleb McMullin scored on a nine-yard pass reception from Field with 32 seconds left in the second quarter. The conversion run failed.
Canton got the ball back and drove to the Granby 18 before the drive stalled. On the final play of the half, Gumbs intercepted a Field pass and returned it 38 yards to the Granby two-yard line as time ran out.
The Warriors scored on their first two drives of the third quarter to take command of the game. Gumbs returned the opening kickoff 38 yards to the Granby 37-yard line. Mullins scored from the one for a 24-6 lead. Canton extended the lead on its next possession to 31-6 on a 37-yard run by Delos, who ran for a game-high 116 yards on nine carries.
Canton’s final touchdown of the season came on a eight-play, 78-yard drive on the ground with Jesse Lachance scoring from the five-yard line in his final varsity football game with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter. Delos had the key carry on the drive with a 28-yard gain to the Granby 35-yard line.
Mullins finished the season just short of 1,000 yards on the ground with 977 yards and 13 touchdowns – both single season records at Canton.
The Warriors limted Granby to just 12 yards on the ground in the first half and 77 for the game.
“There wasn’t one issue with this team all year. Not one,” Philippon said. “Not one grade issue. Not one behavioral issue. They were here for practice early. They did everything we asked them to do or they tried to do it. There was no complaining about playing time.”
And when the players made a mistake, they heard about. “They know how we feel as a staff. They’re going to be held accountable. Here’s the deal, we’re honest with them and they’re held accountable (for their play),” Philippon said.
Despite the loss, Granby coach Rich Gadoury was upbeat about the season as a whole. “The season was amazing,” he said. “Let’s be honest. This was the best season Granby football has ever had. The boys have a lot to be proud of.”
Field finished the season with his third straight game with over 200 yards passing. Receivers Caleb McMullin (7 receptions, 45 yards) and Ken Mouning (6-66) caught touchdown passes while Ian Downey caught seven passes for 58 yards. Running back Stephen Blake ran for a team-high 72 yards on 21 carries.
“I told the seniors after the game that they planted the seed this season,” Gadoury said. “They played the seed of what Granby football will be. We’re going to be a hard-hitting football team. We still hit (Canton) hard today.”
Canton 38, Granby 12
Granby (4-6) 0 6 0 6 — 12
Canton (7-3) 16 0 15 7 – 38
C: Kyle Mullins 20 run (Mullins run), 4:46
C: Jake Wood 24 pass from Eric Scott (Mullins run), 0:55
G: Caleb McMullin 9 pass from Curtis Field (run fails), 0:32
C: Mullins 1 run (Jesse Lachance run), 10:05
C: Dan Delos 37 run (Eddie Melton kick), 5:08
C: Lachance 5 run (Melton kick), 5:11
G: Kenneth Mouning 5 pass from Field (pass fails), 0:02
RUSHING: Canton — Jesse Lachance 3-22, Kyle Mullins 11-95, Dan Delos 9-116, Eric Scott 2-minus 8, Terrence Brophy 3-27; Granby — Stephen Blake 21-72, Caleb McMullin 4-1, Connor Field 1-13; Curtis Field 3-minus 23
PASSING: Canton — Eric Scott 3-7-0, 43, Lachance 0-1-0; Granby — Curtis Field 24-41-3, 205
RECEIVING: Canton — Jake Wood 3-43; Granby — Caleb McMullin 7-45; Ian Downey 7-58; Stephen Blake 4-37, Kenneth Mouning 6-66
RETURNS: Kickoffs — Connor Field (G) 1-18, Caleb McMullin (G) 1-2, Logan Strait (G) 1-0, Kennth Mouning (G) 2-25; Dan Delos (C) 1-19, Seb Gumbs (C) 1-38, Matt Bangs (G) 1-20; Punt returns – Gumbs (C) 1-12, Dominic Pagano (G) 1-0
INTERCEPTIONS: Cam Daley (C) 1-25, Seb Gumbs (C) 1-38, Dan Delos (C) 1-17; SACKS: Henry Bonini (C) 1-9, Kyle Mullins (C) 1-11; FUMB REC: Delos (C); Penalties: Granby 8-85, Canton 8-85