AVON — This one was sweet. Very sweet, indeed.
Nine times, Canton has challenged Avon on the football gridiron. And nine times, they had fallen. Five times, they had been shutout and Canton had never led once in those nine games with the Falcons.
On Thursday, Avon looked to have Canton down for the count but the Warriors forced three turnovers, had some special teams magic and scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock to beat the Avon, 16-13.
Twice, Canton came from behind to take the lead. Late in the fourth quarter with Avon leading by three points, Canton linebacker Dan Delos stripped the ball from Avon receiver Luke Meaney with 2:39 remaining.
Canton marched 69 yards in nine plays. Quarterback Eric Scott, who had completed just two of his first eight passes in the game, was 2-for-2 on the game-winning drive for 20 yards. Scott completed an eight-yard pass to Sebastian Gumbs, who scooted out of bounds at the six with eight seconds left.
Scott handed off to Terrence Brophy, who scampered around to his right and beat Avon’s Dylan Marquis to the end zone. Brophy dove into the end zone, touching the pylon as he flew threw the air to spark a wild celebration among the Canton players and fans.
“If there was one game I wanted to win in my high school career (it was this one),” said Scott, the senior who was facing Avon for the third time. He watched his older brother Nate lose to Avon when he played for the Warriors.
“I told the team I didn’t care if we win the rest of our games this year. I wanted to win this game right here. This means everything,” Scott said.
The Falcons were looking to clinch the game in the fourth quarter.
Leading by three, 13-10, Avon put a stranglehold on the Canton offense, limiting the Warriors to minus 12 yards on its first two drives of the quarter. Stephen Griffin had a seven-yard sack of Scott and Justin Reichler and Nick Zacchio combined to stop Scott in the backfield for a 10-yard loss.
Avon took over with 4:27 left but couldn’t get a first down. On third down and nine, Meaney caught a eight-yard pass from quarterback Noah Hahn but Delos striped the ball from him on the tackle. Gumbs recovered the fumble with 2:39 left on the Canton 31-yard line.
Canton began marching down the field behind runs from Brophy and Delos as the time clicked away. The Warriors were calm and didn’t rush to the line. Scott hit Keith Wilson with a nine-yard pass that gave Canton a first down on the Avon 27-yard line with 39 seconds remaining.
After a 10-yard run from Cam Daley, one of the officials thought he heard an Avon player call timeout and stopped the clock with 33 seconds left. It gave Canton enough time to get to the line and Scott completed a 11-yard pass to Gumbs to the Avon six.
Canton called timeout. The officials paused when a clap of thunder was heard rolling through the valley. But they decided to let the game continue. And Brophy scored to give Canton its biggest victory since the resurrection of the varsity program in 2006.
“We are blessed with a bunch of kids who don’t quit,” Canton coach Paul Phillippon said. “We had every reason to just say Avon is a great team and let it go. But they wouldn’t.”
Avon led 7-0 at halftime on a four-yard touchdown run from Jimmy Murphy (7-70 rushing).
Canton cut the lead to 7-3 on the first drive of the second half, set up by a 55-yard kickoff return from Gumbs. The Warriors drove to the Avon seven-yard line before sophomore Eddie Melton hit a 20-yard field goal.
The Warriors took their first lead ever over the Falcons when Gumbs intercepted Hahn and returned the pass 45-yard to the Avon 25-yard line. Hahn overthrew his receiver. On fourth down and inches from the 15, Delos broke through the line and scampered into the end zone for a 10-7 advantage.
Delos finished with a game-high and career-high 101 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
Avon responded immediately with a quick four-play, 65-yard drive sparked by a 45-yard run from Murphy. Hahn scored from the one with 1:41 left in the quarter. But Gumbs blocked the extra point to leave the lead at three, 13-10.
“The kids fought hard and it was a great high school football game,” Avon coach Jim Caouette said. “We had to protect the football and play great defense. I thought we did play great defense but we didn’t protect the football. When you don’t protect the football, you lose games.”
Canton 16, Avon 13
Canton (1-0) 0 0 10 6 – 16
Avon (0-1) 0 7 6 0 — 13
A: Jimmy Murphy 4 run (John Burdick kick), 11:53
C: Eddie Melton 20 FG, 7:09
C: Dan Delos 15 run (Melton kick), 3:30
A: Noah Hahn 1 run (kick blocked), 1:41
C: Terrence Brophy 6 run, 0:00
RUSHING: Avon – Jimmy Murphy 7-70, Ted Allmendinger 4-19, Steven Griffin 8-31, Noah Hahn 4-20; Canton – Terrence Brophy 10-39, Dan Delos 17-101, Cam Daley 4-20, Sebastian Gumbs 3-11, Eric Scott 4-minus 22
PASSING: Avon – Noah Hahn 8-11-1, 59; Canton – Eric Scott 4-10-1, 41
RECEIVING: Avon – Justin Reichler 1-4, Luke Meaney 4-24, Dylan Marquis 2-15, Allmendinger 1-16; Canton – Jake Wood 1-15, Terrence Brophy 1-6, Keith Wilson 1-9, Sebastian Gumbs 1-11
RETURNS: Gumbs (C) 3-130 (punts), Marquis (A) 3-37 (punts), 2-45 (kickoffs)
INTERCEPTIONS: Gumbs (C) 1-45, Avik Vimal (A) 1-0
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Gumbs (C) 2, Matt Bangs (C), Murphy (A)