CANTON, Nov. 15 – When their back was to the wall, the Canton High football team stood firm. Twice, Avon took a seven-point lead in Saturday’s Pequot Conference Uncas Division showdown.
“There may have been a small piece of doubt in some of them but their belief in each other was larger than that and they kept on going,” Canton coach Paul Philippon said.
“We trust our teammates. We trust our coaches and they trust us,” Canton senior Cam Daley said.
The Warriors forced three Avon turnovers. They missed a potential game-winning field goal with 21 seconds remaining in regulation but made two big defensive stops in overtime. And then, Canton won it in OT when Dan Delos scored on a five-yard run for a thrilling 27-21 victory.
The victory gives Canton (9-1, 8-0) the Pequot Uncas Division title – its first league championship since 1958 and keeps the Warriors in the hunt for their first-ever CIAC playoff berth. “This game meant everything to us,” Delos said. “Everything was on the line for us.” A loss would have jeopardized the Uncas Division title and playoff berth.
Avon (6-4, 6-2 Pequot Uncas) saw their Class M playoff hopes all but vanish.
“Our kids fought hard and played hard,” Avon coach Jim Caouette said. “The bottom line is that if we don’t turn the ball over twice (on fumbles) again, we win the football game. And we probably win by two scores. I guess I’m not doing my job if I haven’t taught them how to not turn the ball over in crucial situations.”
Avon QB Sean Del Gallo was intercepted once but a pair of second half fumbles from running backs Teddy Allemendinger and Andrew Blackmore hurt. Turnovers have been a curse for the Falcons, who have turned the ball over 11 times in four losses this season.
“It’s disappointing,” Caouette said. “It’s one thing to lose ballgames. It’s another to give them away.”
Avon held led by seven at halftime but Canton came out on its initial drive of the second half and tied the game at 14-14 on a 52-yard run by Sebby Gumbs with 9:54 remaining in the third quarter. Gumbs, who ran for a game-high 149 yards on 20 carries, ran to his right to find some open space but he reversed his field and ended up racing into the end zone on the left side of the field.
Avon, which had some good success with some triple option plays, capped off a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a one-yard run from Del Gallo to take a 21-14 lead with 10:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. A Blackmore had a key 15-yard run on the drive while Allmendinger had a 11-yard run.
Canton responded with a 13-play, 62-yard march that ended with QB Cam Daley scoring from the 26-yard line on a misdirection play to tie the game at 21-21 with 5:12 left in the game.
Daley faked the handoff to Delos, ran into one of his own players, took a step to his left and dashed through the line and into open space. He wasn’t touched once he got beyond the line of scrimmage. “I don’t know if they knew who had the ball,” Daley said. “We’ve been working on that all week for a special moment. The line blocked it up perfectly.”
Daley, who sat out last week’s win over Hyde with an injured ankle, made his first start of the season at quarterback for the Warriors. “We’re working with some injury issues. We try to shuffle our roster as best as we can to put our best 11 out there and today it made sense to have (Cam) at quarterback,” Phillippon said.
On Avon’s next possession, they had it three plays before fumbling away. Gumbs recovered with 3:50 left in the game. Canton marched to the Avon 7-yard line with 32 seconds remaining. But Del Gallo tackled Daley for a loss of seven yards on third down, forcing the Warriors’ Eddie Melton to try a 30-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining. It was wide left and the game went in overtime.
In overtime, each team gets the ball on the 10-yard line and has four plays. Avon got the ball first and Allemendinger gained four yards on first down. But on second down, he was tackled for a one-yard loss and on third down, Blackmore was stopped by Shane Toland for a two-yard loss. That forced Avon kicker Alden Getz to attempt a 25-yard field goal. It was wide left.
Canton got the ball and Delos gained five yards on two plays. On third down, he drove hard and just crossed the plane of the goal line to give Canton the 27-21 victory in overtime. It was Canton’s first-ever OT game.
“Avon gave us all we could handle,” Phillippon said. “Frankly, we made a lot of mistakes. As a coach, I made a lot of mistakes. But the kids picked each other up. They just listened and tried to do what we told them to do.“
Philippon credited his defense for making big plays throughout the game. Toland led the way with 12 tackles, including four tackles for losses.
Canton took a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by Delos in the second quarter after marching 85 yards on 13 plays, eating up 7:25. Canton converted twice on third down with Delos getting first downs with runs of eight and six yards, respectively. On fourth down and one, Avon jumped offsides to keep the drive alive.
Avon tied the game at 7-7 on a 41-yard option pitch to Blackmore with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter. The Falcons extended the lead to 14-7 on one-yard run by Del Gallo with 2:13 left in the second quarter.
Delos ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns for the Warriors, who threw the ball for the first time in four games. Daley completed 4-of-7 passes for 19 yards. He was intercepted once.
Avon was led by Allmendinger with 90 yards rushing on 10 carries while Blackmore ran for 63 yards on eight carries. Del Gallo, playing in place of the injured Ian McDonald, ran for 44 yards on 11 carries and completed 3-of-7 passes for 21 yards and one interception.
Canton closes out the regular season by hosting Granby (7-3, 5-3 Uncas) on Thanksgiving while Avon will play its first-ever Thanksgiving Day contest when they host Gilbert/Northwestern (4-6, 4-4 Uncas).
NOTES: This was the final Canton vs. Avon contest since the Falcons are moving to the Central Connecticut Conference next September. … Avon leads the series between the two schools, 9-2. … It’s the second straight win for Canton, which beat Avon a year ago, 16-13 by scoring on the final play of the contest from six yards away. … Avon is now 2-1 in overtime games. They last played in OT in 2011 and beat Housatonic/Wamogo, 17-14 on a 23-yard field goal from Will DiStefano. … Canton is seeded fourth in the Class S playoff rankings with the top eight teams qualifying for the tournament. Avon is still mathematically alive in Class M and is seeded 11th.
Canton 27, Avon 21, OT
Avon (6-4) 0 14 0 7 0 – 21
Canton (9-1) 0 7 7 7 6 – 27
C: Dan Delos 4 run (Eddie Melton kick), 8:53
A: Andrew Blackmore 41 run (Alden Getz kick), 7:37
A: Sean Del Gallo 1 run (Getz kick), 2:13
C: Sebby Gumbs 52 run (Melton kick), 9:54
A: Del Gallo 1 run (Getz kick), 10:47
C: Cam Daley 26 run (Melton kick), 5:20
C: Delos 5 run
MISSED FG: Getz 25, Melton 30
RUSHING: Avon – Andrew Blackmore 8-63, Teddy Allemendinger 10-90, Jamie Dlugolecki 10-32, Sean Del Gallo 11-44; Canton – Cam Daley 3-38, Sebby Gumbs 20-149, Dan Delos 26-113, Henry Bonini 1-2, Brock Steinfeldt 1-2, Eddie Melton 1-0
PASSING: Avon – Del Gallo 3-7-1, 21; Canton – Daley 4-7-1, 19, Gumbs 0-1-0
RECEIVING: Avon – Geoff Kirk 2-7, Luke Meaney 1-14; Canton – Alex Higley 1-6, Eddie Melton 1-2, Sebby Gumbs 1-0, Henry Bonini 1-11
RETURNS: Kickoffs – Jordan Williams (A) 3-56, Sebby Gumbs (C) 3-64, Eddie Melton (C) 1-28; Punts – Gumbs (C) 1-5
INTERCEPTIONS: Daley (C) 1-0, Meaney (A) 1-0; FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Delos (C), Gumbs (C)