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Roots of the Canton, Avon rivalry in football date back to 1930s

In white, the Canton football team was a running team in 1954. The Warriors were made up of players from Canton, Avon and Burlington through the end of the 1950s.

In white, the Canton football team was a running team in 1954. Through the end of the 1950s, the Warriors were made up of players from Canton, Avon and Burlington.

They play for the final time on Saturday. Canton and Avon, whose football roots are intertwined with each other, hit the field on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Canton High.

With a victory, the Warriors can win their first league championship since 1958 when they captured the North Central League title with victories over Gilbert, Housatonic, Berlin, Simsbury and Farmington. Canton (8-1, 7-0 Pequot Uncas) can also take a giant step toward a possible spot in the CIAC Class S tournament with a win.

Avon (6-3, 6-1 Pequot Uncas) is looking to keep their Class L playoff hopes alive along with the potential of claiming a share of the Uncas Division title for one last time. Next fall, Avon will join the Central Connecticut Conference and this rivalry will come to a close.

The two schools have a long tradition together in football. Most of it was playing as one team for nearly 30 years. Until 1958, most Avon and Burlington students went to school in Canton, which was the regional school at the time.

Like today’s Canton squad of just 27 players, those first football teams were small – only about 20 to 25 players. Students helped form Canton’s first modern team in 1934. Beginning in 1949, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury began a round robin tournament called the Little Three with the winner taking home the Farmington Valley Herald’s Little Three trophy. The Herald was the weekly newspaper in the valley. It was always a spirited affair between the three valley teams.

The boys from Canton and Avon went 5-0-1 in 1951 and 6-0 in 1952, winning back-to-back Little 3 and Central Valley Conference titles. They also were also recognized with the CIAC’s Award of Merit after both seasons. In 1958, Canton won another Little 3 championship and the North Central League crown.

Avon fielded its first varsity football team in 1960. Burlington and Harwinton formed Region 10 and Lewis Mills opened in the fall of 1960. That took players away from Canton, which struggled to field a team. Canton’s 1960 football season was cut short after two games. After a winless 1963 campaign, the 1964 season was ended after four games and football didn’t return to Canton until 2007.

A glimpse at some of the highlights of the Avon vs. Canton football rivalry.

1960: Avon 16, Canton 0: Ray Jacques had an 82-yard kickoff return for Avon, which won its second-ever game. The Warriors (0-2) suspended the team a few days later due to injuries and a lack of players. Canton began the season with only 19 players.

1963: Avon 14, Canton 0: John Festa and John Pajor ran for TDs to lead Avon to its first victory of the season and the beginning of a four-game winning streak.

1964: Avon 35, Canton 0: Michael Marquis ran for three touchdowns to lead the Falcons. A week later, Gilbert shutout Canton, 48-0. A few days later, the Warriors dropped varsity football due to the lack of boys playing the sport and in the face of the rapid growth of their opponents.

2007: Avon 42, Canton 26: Behind junior Mike D’Onofrio and QB David Wyrick, Avon scored on seven of its first nine possessions to beat Canton in the first game between the two schools in 43 years. D’Onofrio ran for 177 yards and scored 5 TDs. Wyrick completed 6-of-8 passes for 118 yards and one TD. Canton QB Nick Delvecchio completed 11 of 20 passes for 130 yards.  

2008: Avon 34, Canton 0: Avon’s Mike D’Onofrio ran for 95 yards and 3 TDs and caught a 55-yard TD pass from Andy Livingstone in a shutout win over the Warriors. 

Avon's Colin Moore breaks through a hole in Saturday's win over Canton.

Avon’s Colin Moore (5) breaks through a hole in in a 2011 game in Canton.

2009: Avon 47, Canton 20: Ross McDonald ran for a game-high 275 yards and 3 TDs while receiver Vince Savarese caught five passes for 115 yards and three TDs for Avon, which finished the regular season undefeated (10-0) for just the second time in the program’s history.

2010: Avon 47, Canton 12: Playing under the lights at Simsbury High, Avon’s All-State RB Ross McDonald ran for a season-high 244 yards and 5 TDs. Avon intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble. Canton QB Nick Grabowski ran for a team-high 124 yards and a TD.

2011: Avon 31, Canton 0: Canton didn’t make it easy for the Falcons, who had to punt on four of its first five possessions. But explosive junior back Colin Moore was too much. He had a 71-yard touchdown run on Avon’s first play of the third quarter as the Falcons scored 25 second half points. Moore finished with 175 yards rushing and three TDs on 24 carries.

2012: Avon 28, Canton 6: Avon’s Colin Moore ran for 236 yards and two TDs on 28 carries to lead the Falcons. Kyle Mullins ran hard for the Warriors, gaining a team-high 105 yards on 16 carries.

Canton players celebrate after scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game to beat Avon for the first time ever.

Canton players celebrate after scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game to beat Avon for the first time ever in September 2013.

2013: Canton 16, Avon 13: This was one of greatest victories in Canton football history and it came in the 2013 season opener. Avon had a 13-10 lead and the ball in the fourth quarter when Canton LB Dan Delos stripped the ball from Avon receiver Luke Meaney with 2:39 remaining. Canton marched 69 yards in nine plays. QB Eric Scott completed an eight-yard pass to Sebastian Gumbs, who scooted out of bounds at the six with eight seconds remaining. Terrance Brophy scored with no time remaining to give Canton the victory.

2014: Canton vs. Avon: Canton (8-1) can clinch the Pequot Uncas Division title while Avon (6-3) is looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.

 

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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