CANTON – The Canton High football team isn’t blessed with a lot of players. There are just 27 boys in the program. Once again, the Warriors won’t be playing any junior varsity football games.
However, the players Canton have on the field are pretty good. “We have a nice nucleus of players who have played a lot of varsity football the last two years,” Canton coach Paul Philippon said. “They’ve paid their dues in the weight room. We’re a stronger team that we have been the past two years.”
Senior DB/WR Cam Daley and WR/DB Sebby Gumbs, who have earned All-Conference honors the past two seasons, are among the veterans returning for Canton. RB/LB Henry Bonini was an All-Conference player two years ago as a sophomore at guard. Guard Pearse Walsh and 6-foot-4 defensive tackle Shane Toland were All-Conference selections last fall.
“We’re not a small team up front, “Philippon said. “We’ve used the weight room wisely the past two years. We’ll be running the ball but we’ll try to make it a balanced attack.”
Canton (7-4) will have a new quarterback in sophomore Alex Higley. But he’ll be surrounded by several experienced players including Daley, Gumbs, Bonini and senior Dan Delos, the team’s second-leading rusher (128-787 yards, 14 TDs) and top scorer a year ago. Daley caught 18 passes for 309 yards and one TD while Gumbs pulled in 20 passes for 410 yards. Daley and Gumbs have the speed to run, as well.
Up front, the Warriors have Walsh, senior Caiden Permenter and sophomore Keegan Toland at guard with juniors Landon Whitney, Elliott Moreau and sophomore Jerry Lefave at tackle. Junior Will Carlson will play center with junior Matt Bangs at tight end.
A year ago, Canton scored a school-record 313 points as they won seven games for the second straight season. The Warriors beat Avon for the first time ever, 16-13, scoring a touchdown on the final play of regulation. Canton beat Coventry/Windham Tech by one, 28-27, thanks to a goal line stand in the fourth quarter.
“They’ve been working hard but every team has to redefine themselves, “Philippon said. “This team has to earn it. You don’t carry in your wins from last year.”
Defensively, All-Pequot lineman Shane Toland returns along with Bonini and Delos at linebacker. Keegan Toland will play nose tackle with Brock Steinfeldt also playing linebacker along with Bangs, Permenter and sophomore Sam Jenkins. Daley and Gumbs will be in the secondary along with Eddie Melton, Liam Yurchick, Ethan Burke and Mekiah Davis.
A year ago, Gumbs had seven interceptions for 84 yards while Daley had five interceptions for 91 yards. “They’ve proven they can rise to the occasion,” Philippon said.
Delos looks to make an impact on both sides of the ball, too — at running back and middle linebacker. “He plays with the right edge,” Philippon said. “He’s an aggressive player and we’re working on different ways to use him. He’s a gamer.”
Melton, who kicked 28 extra points a year ago along with one field goal, gives Canton a solid kicking game.
Philippon isn’t looking past the opening day contest at Dillon Stadium against SMSA/University on Thursday, Sept. 11. “I’m not thinking about (an Uncas) Division title,” he said. “The focus is on beating SMSA. It’s everything we have for each game. I feel good about this team. We can compete with anyone. I just want to score more points than they do.”
If they stay healthy and play the disciplined type of football that Philippon and his staff demand of them, Canton could contend for the Uncas Division championship and perhaps one of the eight spots in the Class S tournament.
But it won’t be easy. Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton and Ellington/Somers are always tough teams. And Canton will end its season with challenging games against Avon and Granby. Canton will face Avon on Saturday, Nov. 15 in what could be the final football game between the two schools with Avon moving to the Central Connecticut Conference in 2015. And the Falcons haven’t forgotten last year’s loss to the Warriors.
Canton will host Granby on Thanksgiving morning. The Bears will have the entire season to perfect its run-based option veer offense that can be difficult to stop.
Canton also has two games against Sassacus Division opponents. They host Morgan, an experienced favorite in the Sassacus Division, and Hyde, a team with speed and athletic players.
“Our philosophy is if you keep looking ahead, you’ll trip over the things in front of you,” Philippon said.
NOTES: The Warriors play four games under the lights including hosting Enfield at its new artificial turf facility on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. … Canton will be looking for a third straight winning season for the first time in team history. … The 14 wins in the past two seasons is a school record. The previous best was 11 wins in 1951 (5-0-1) and 1952 (6-0). … Canton’s last championship in football was the North Central League title in 1958. … Delos’ 14 TDs and 90 points scored a year ago were a single-season school records.
Coach: Paul Philippon, 3rd year (14-7); Career 48-23-2
Last year: 7-4, 4-2 Pequot West (tied 2nd)
Key losses: All-Pequot West QB/P Eric Scott (58-120-7, 1,170 yards, 11 TDs), RB Terrence Brophy (152-936, 10 TDs), WR Jake Wood (10-253, 5 TDs), SR Keith Wilson OL Quinten Permenter, WR Patrick Lawler
Top players: All-Pequot West Cam Daley, Sebby Gumbs, OL Pearse Walsh, DL Shane Toland; QB Alex Higley; RB/LB Dan Delos, RB/LB Henry Bonini
Outlook: With a small team of 28 players, Canton won’t field a junior varsity team. But they have plenty of experienced players who can play the game. Look for the Warriors to run the ball and play smart defense. If they stay heathy and play disciplined football, they could contend for the Uncas Division title and perhaps a state tournament berth.
Of note: Sal Cintorino, the former head coach at Central Connecticut State University (1992-2000), Newington High (2003-07) and Bristol Central (2009-13), has joined the coaching staff.
Thur. Sept. 11: at SMSA/University, 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 19: at Stafford/East Windsor, 6:30 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 27: ELLINGTON/SOMERS, 1:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 3: at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton, 7 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 11: at Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby, 1 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 18: MORGAN, 1:30 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 25: ENFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 1: at Gilbert/Northwestern, 1 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 8: HYDE, 1:30 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 15: AVON. 1:30 p.m.
Thur. Nov. 27: GRANBY, 10:30 a.m.