CANTON – At the end, the Canton High football team was taking strategic timeouts to give their players time to rest and cool off. It was a warm, sunny 80 degree day Saturday afternoon and it was even warmer on Canton’s new synthetic field. “Oh, my god. This was much worse than any August practice,” Canton’s Cam Daley gasped afterwards.
Daley looked exhausted. So did fellow captain Dan Delos. But they were smiling.
The Warriors ran for 316 yards and forced two Ellington/Somers turnovers to beat the Purple Knights for the first time since 2009 and move into first place in the Pequot Conference’s Uncas Division with a 21-14 victory. Canton and Gilbert/Northwestern are each 3-0. It’s the first 3-0 start for the Warriors since 1954.
What made the win more significant is the size of Canton’s program. There are just 27 players in the entire program. There is no junior varsity team. A majority of the Warriors play on both sides of the ball. They held Ellington/Somers to 38 yards of offense in the first half.
“This team redefined toughness,” Daley said. “It took 110 percent to stay on the field and perform and that is what we did.”
The Warriors poured water on their heads. They placed ice bags on their necks. And they went out onto the field and got the job done. “They’re a very physical, well-coached team,” Ellington/Somers coach Sean Byrne said. “The offense they’re running isn’t that complicated. But it is effective. They run it very well. Those backs run hard.”
Canton had a 14-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Sophomore defensive tackle Jerry LaFave recovered an Ellington fumble near midfield to halt the Knights’ first drive of the second half. Delos began the drive with a 15-yard run, breaking a few tackles. It ended five plays later when Henry Bonini broke a few tackles on a 28-yard touchdown run.
Ellington/Somers responded with its best drive of the day. The Knights marched 71 yards on 15 plays, converting three times on third down to keep the drive alive. It ended when Jacob Hinkel scored on a 12-yard pass from Mark Hickman on fourth down and two with 11:13 remaining in the ballgame. The extra point from Julian Herms made it 14-7.
Canton didn’t yield. All week, head coach Paul Philippon had urged his players to push aside previous defeats at the hands of the Knights and focus on the task at hand. “Don’t believe in ghosts,” he said. “Balance passion with brains. Strike a balance and get over the hump.”
It was just two years ago when Ellington/Somers rolled over Canton by 40 points. A year ago, they won again by 14 points.
“It was really draining,” Canton lineman Pearse Walsh said. “But we put it all out there. We had to be mentally tough. You had to want that win and push for it. Dig deep and push through.”
The Warriors responded with an 11 play drive over 80 yards that ate up nearly seven minutes. It was Delos that capped off the drive with a 34-yard run with 4:20 remaining in the game to give Canton a 21-7 lead. He evaded one tackler, broke a tackle and virtually carried two Knight defenders into the end zone with him.
Canton converted twice on third down to keep the drive moving and once on fourth down. Delos had a 20-yard run on a third and two play while Daley had a three-yard run on a third and one play. On fourth and one, Delos ran to the left for a one-yard gain with 5:46 remaining. He scored two plays later.
“Our offensive line pretty much controlled how far the ball went,” Delos said. “They set the tone on every run and pass.” Shane Toland (left tackle), Caiden Permenter (left guard), Will Carlson (center), Keegan Toland (right guard) and Walsh (right tackle) played up front for the Warriors. Toland, Permenter and Walsh played on the defensive front line, too.
Delos ran for a game-high 150 yards on 21 carries, including 103 yards in the second half.
Ellington/Somers pulled within one score on a quick drive as quarterback Christian Rider scored on a 21-yard run with 2:55 left in the game. But Canton was able to run out the clock. Canton’s Matt Bangs recovered an onside kick and Delos had eight yards for a first down on a third and two play that essentially sealed the game with 2:12 remaining.
The game began on a sour note as Ellington/Somers recovered the opening kickoff. But Canton stood tall on defense, stopping the Knights on the Canton 19-yard line. On Canton’s second drive of the day put together a nice march that ended on a one-yard touchdown run from Daley for a 7-0 lead.
The key play in the drive was an eight-yard gain from Daley on fourth down and six from the Ellington 11-yard line. Daley scored two plays later.
NOTES: Delos ran for over 150 yards for the second straight game. He had a career-high 153 yards a week ago against Stafford/East Windsor. … Matt Bangs had a nice diving interception to stop an Ellington drive late in the second quarter. … Canton didn’t attempt a single pass in the game. … The Warriors are now 2-6 against the Knights. Canton won in 2009 with a 21-8 victory. … Canton’s 3-0 start is the best since 1954. Remember, there was no varsity team in 1961 and 1962 and from 1965 through 2007.
Canton 21, Ellington/Somers 14
Ellington/Somers (2-1) 0 0 0 14 — 14
Canton (3-0) 0 7 7 7 — 21
C: Cam Daley 1 run (Eddie Melton kick), 10:49
C: Henry Bonini 28 run (Melton kick), 7:15
E: Jacob Hinkel 12 pass from Mark Hickman (Julian Herms kick), 11:13
C: Dan Delos 34 run (Melton kick), 4:51
E: Christian Rider 21 run (Herms kick), 2:55
RUSHING: Canton – Dan Delos 21-150, Cam Daley 12-73, Eddie Melton 1-10, Henry Bonini 5-47, Brock Steinfeldt 2-5, Sebby Gumbs 6-31, Alex Higley 2-2; Ellington/Somers – Christian Rider 10-38, Mark Hickman 8-30, Izaiah Castro 6-16, Zach Luginbuhl 7-32, Derek Litty 1-9, Tyreik Noel 1-1
PASSING: Ellington/Somers – Rider 5-11-1, 60; Hickman 1-1, 12; Canton — none
RECEIVING: Ellington/Somers – Joseph Mongillo 1-7, Ryan Ferguson 1-7, Jacob Hinkel 1-12, Mark Hickman 2-39, Izaiah Castro 1-14
KICKOFF RETURNS: Matt Bangs (C) 1-0, Cam Daley (C) 3-73, Izaiah Castro (E) 1-13, Mark Hickman (E) 1-13; SACKS: Will Carlson (C) 1-6, Shane McGowan (E) 1-1; INTERCEPTIONS: Matt Bangs (C) 1-0; FUMBLE RECOVERY: Jerry LeFave (C) 1-0