CANTON — There were times that the Canton High football team thought they had Gilbert/Northwestern running back Tony Ortiz contained. And then he would accelerate away for a big gain.
Ortiz ran for a game-high 293 yards on 32 carries to spark the Yellowjackets to a 28-15 win over Canton on Saturday. Canton could have taken a big step toward its first league championship since 1958 with a victory.
The visiting Yellowjackets led by 20 points early in the third quarter but the Warriors didn’t quit. The got on the board with a 60-yard match and after Yellowjackets failed on a questionable fourth down try on their own 41-yard line, Canton was driving toward the goal line to cut the lead to six points.
But the Warriors never got there. They coughed up the ball on their own 10-yard line.
On the next play, Ortiz ran to his left and was nearly tackled in the backfield. He escaped. In the next 10 yards, he was nearly brought down two more times. Then, he took off down the left sideline. And he was gone with a 90-yard touchdown to give Gilbert a comfortable 28-7 lead.
Ortiz also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Lippincott in the second quarter and ran in the two-point conversion after his 90-yard TD scamper. He also gained 50 yards on the first play of the third quarter. Lined up in the wildcat formation, he took the ball and raced around the left side to the Canton 16-yard line. Two plays later, Lippincott scored to give Gilbert a 20-0 lead.
“Today was Tony Ortiz’s day,” Gilbert/NWR coach Scott Salius said. “It was a phenomenal effort on his part. We rode the back of Tony. He is our best running threat. We just kept handing him the ball. You have to go with what works.”
Lippincott added, “He found the holes and broke a lot of tackles. He was popping out of nowhere.”
Gilbert (5-1, 3-0) is now in the driver’s seat to win the first Pequot West Division championship. But they will have to get past Avon (5-2, 4-1) this Saturday. If they do, it should be clear sailing for the Yellowjackets to win their first league title since 1975.
Canton (4-2, 3-1) will need some help from Avon if they want to win a possible share of the Pequot West championship.
“This was a big game,” Canton coach Paul Philippon said. “We didn’t downplay it (afterwards). Had we won, it would have been a big step up for our program. But losing doesn’t mean that it is a big step back. It depends on them (the Canton players). I think they’ll show up Monday ready to work.”
Canton has five games remaining and with eight teams qualifying for the Class S tournament, the Warriors could be in the mix if they continue to win. The Warriors host winless Haddam-Killingworth (0-7) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Our line is blocking better and better,” Philippon said. “We certainly ran the ball.” Terrance Brophy ran for a team-high 136 yards on 19 carries while Dan Delos (16-88) and Sebby Gumbs (12-73) ran well.
“They played to the end and didn’t quit,” Philippon said. “They don’t give up.”
Canton forced four Gilbert turnovers, recovering two fumbles and intercepting a pair of passes – both by Gumbs.
The problem against Gilbert was that Canton couldn’t finish drives. “Our defense stepped up and stopped them in key moments,” Lippincott said.
Six times, the Yellowjackets stopped Canton drives inside their own 40-yard line. Two Canton drives inside the Gilbert 20-yard line were stopped.
After Gilbert took a 20-0 lead in the third quarter, Canton went 60 yards on seven plays with Terrance Brophy scoring from the 15-yard line to cut the lead to 20-7.
Trailing by 21 points in the fourth quarter, Scott found Keith Wilson down the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown reception with 6:02 left in the game.
NOTES: After hosting the Cougars this week, Canton travels to Ellington/Somers (4-3) on Saturday, Nov. 9 for a challenging game. The Warriors host Lewis Mills (1-5) in the final home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Canton finishes with two games on the road at Enfield (3-3) on Nov. 21 and close out the regular season at Granby (2-4) on Thanksgiving morning at 10:30 a.m.
Gilbert/Northwestern 28, Canton 15
Gilbert/NWR (5-1) 0 14 14 0 — 28
Canton (4-2) 0 0 7 8 — 15
G: Tony Ortiz 16 pass from John Lippincott (Joe Columbie kick), 7:27
G: Lippincott 3 run (Columbie kick), 2:15
G: Lippincott 5 run (kick fails), 10:15
C: Terrance Brophy 15 run (Eddie Melton kick), 7:20
G: Ortiz 90 run (Ortiz run), 3:39
C: Keith Wilson 42 pass from Eric Scott (Delos run), 6:02
RUSHING: Gilbert/NWR — Tony Ortiz 32-293, Matthew Nieves 4-12, Seth Dayton 2-2, John Lippincott 6-23, Aiden Tellier 1-1; Canton – Terrance Brophy 19-136, Sebby Gumbs 12-73, Dan Delos 16-88, Eric Scott 5-minus 14
PASSING: Gilbert/NWR — Lippincott 3-10-2, 67, Ortiz 0-1-0; Canton – Eric Scott 3-15-0, 65, Sebby Gumbs 0-1-0
RECEIVING: Gilbert/NWR — Ortiz 1-16, Seth Dayton 1-34, Nick Pedrolini 1-17; Canton — Sebby Gumbs 1-14, Keith Wilson 1-42, Cam Daley 1-9