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Season concludes this week for six Valley teams on Thanksgiving week

football graphicThe high school football season comes to end this week for the six teams in the Farmington Valley. When the campaign began in the heat of August, there was plenty of hope and optimism. But 10 weeks later, victories have been hard to find.

A year ago, Granby won 10 games and earned their first CIAC Class S tournament berth. This year, the Bears have won once. Avon won eight games and topped Simsbury for the first time since 1968 at the inaugural Valley Gridiron Classic. This year, a young Falcons team has struggled with just one victory last week at Plainville.

Farmington had hoped to contend in the CCC Division II but has managed just two wins. Lewis Mills had hoped to be in contention for a Class S playoff berth but they’ve won just three games. Canton is still looking for their first win in two years. Simsbury has shown growth. They won just once a year ago but this year, but coach Dave Masters’ squad has won four of nine games with a few close losses.

Here is a little primer for this year’s Turkey Day action. Avon is hosting Simsbury at Holden Field for the second Valley Gridiron Classic on Tuesday evening. Canton and Granby, Farmington and Plainville and Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug square off on Thursday morning. 

Granby at Canton
Thursday, 10 a.m.

Records: Granby 1-8, 1-3 Pequot Uncas East; Canton 0-9, 0-3 Pequot Uncas West
All-time series: Began 2010. Series tied 3-3
Thanksgiving series: Began 2011. Granby leads, 3-2
Outlook: Both teams will be looking to end the 2016 campaign on a high note with a victory on Thanksgiving morning. After opening the season with a win over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby, Granby has lost eight straight games. The Bears (1-8) rely on the running game, led by senior Jack Hauser, who has run for a team-high 1,019 yards and 11 touchdowns on 198 carries. QB Tim Nolan has completed 13 passes for 142 years in nine games. Hauser leads the team with 11 sacks while Gabe Fiorentino has a team-high 104 tackles.

An undermanned Canton squad that dressed just 18 players two weeks ago against Valley Regional/Old Lyme will be looking for their first victory since beating the Bears on Thanksgiving two years ago. The Warriors have struggled to score this season and have scored just 40 points – the lowest in the state. Senior QB Alex Higley is back on the field after missing five games after injuring his ankle against Lewis Mills in late September. Senior running back Braedon Bean ran for a career-high 103 yards in two quarters against Nonnewaug earlier this year. Freshman Carter Gavin ran for a school-record 235 yards and a touchdown against Morgan three weeks ago. Receiver Gavin Wood caught seven passes for 100 yards against Morgan.
Of note: Canton and Granby are playing for the ceremonial old, red milk jug. … The Warriors have lost 20 straight games.

Avon at Simsbury
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m

 Avon 1-8, 0-4 CCC Div. III East; Simsbury 4-5, 2-2 CCC Div. I West
All-time series: Began 1961. Series tied 5-5
Thanksgiving series: Avon leads the series, 1-0
Outlook: A year ago, the Avon High football team won the CCC Division III East title and was a contender for a playoff berth in Class L. This year, it’s been a lot of on-the-job training for a young, young football team that came into the season with little varsity experience. Mistakes have haunted the Falcons (1-8) all season long. Two weeks ago, they had seven turnovers in a loss to Rockville. But Avon has shown an ability to run the ball better in the past few weeks. Leon Asberry ran for a career-high 162 yards and two TDs in the 27-6 win over Plainville last week while QB Dylan Burgos ran for 200 yards and a TD in the loss to Rockville.

Simsbury began the season with a 0-4 record with hard-to-swallow losses to Hall (18-12) and East Hartford (14-13). But the Trojans won four of the next five games. Simsbury dropped a 26-21 decision to Glastonbury last week. Sean Penney leads the Trojans with 787 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns. His best game of the season was a 171 yard, three TD performance in a big 42-7 win over Bulkeley/Weaver/HMTCA. QB Riley Shanley has completed 83 of 162 passes for 1,170 yards and five TDs. Ralph Gilliard has caught 46 passes for 623 yards and four TDs while teammate Jackson Butler has caught 27 passes for 361 yards. Gilliard caught 11 passes for 92 yards in the 32-13 season-opening loss to Manchester.

Of note: Last November, Avon beat Simsbury for the first time since 1968 with a 55-26 win to capture the Valley Gridiron Classic. … Avon and Simsbury did play yearly for eight years from 1961 through 1968 with each team winning four times, including a 3-0 win in 1968 with a 26-yard field goal by the late Dick Migli that helped the Falcons secure the first undefeated season in Avon football history. … Game tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.

Plainville at Farmington
Thursday, 10 a.m.

Records: Farmington 2-7, 1-4 CCC Div. II East; Plainville 0-9, 0-4 CCC Div. III West
All-time series: Began 1930. Farmington leads 26-25-1
Thanksgiving Day series: Began 2011. Farmington leads 4-1
Outlook: Farmington is looking to finish the season on an up note with a win over Plainville. The Indians had hoped to be a contender in the CCC Division II but things haven’t gone as planned. QB Zach Conrad leads the Indians. He has completed 55-of-99 passes for 761 yards and 11 TDs. Teammate Brooks Mihalek has completed 58 of 111 passes for 701 yards and 4 TDs. Kevin Dunst is the leading receiver with 39 receptions for 610 yards and 5 TDs. Prince Phillip has pulled in 24 catches for 399 yards and 5 TDs. The leading rusher is Brian Buono (117-642, 5 TDs). Alec Bohlman leads the team with 76 tackles followed by Dunst with 57.

A young Plainville team has struggled to score points this season. The Blue Devils have scored 47, which is the lowest in the CCC and second lowest in the state. Frank Griffith leads the Blue Devils at QB with Blake Callahan leading way at running back.

Of note: The two teams are playing for the Olde Canal Cup trophy. … Farmington played some Turkey Day games in the 1930s and 1940s before playing Rocky Hill on Thanksgiving in 2007. The Indians began its current Thanksgiving series with Plainville in 2011. … Plainville coach Tim Shea is completing his first season behind the bench, leading the Blue Devils.

Lewis Mills at Nonnewaug
Thursday, 10 a.m. 

 Lewis Mills 3-6, 1-1 Pequot Uncas West; Nonnewaug 2-7, 1-1 Pequot Uncas West

All-time series: Began 2011. Nonnewaug leads, 3-2
Thanksgiving Day series: Began 2011. Nonnewaug leads, 3-2
Outlook: Lewis Mills had hoped to contend for a playoff berth with an experienced team but the Spartans have lost four straight to tough teams from the Sassacus Division – Cromwell/Portland, North Branford, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Morgan. The Spartans are led by senior QB Trevor Baker, who has completed 86 of 244 passes for 1,210 yards and 16 TD passes. The leading receivers are a pair of brothers. Junior Chris Romano has a team-leading 47 receptions for 612 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Jimmy Romano has pulled in 28 passes for 525 yards and a team-leading eight TDs. Michael Ciccarelli leads the squad in rishing with nearly 600 yards and 7 rushing TDs. Much of it came against Canton when he ran for 252 yards and 3 TDs.

Nonnewaug (2-7) snapped a seven-game losing streak last week with a 26-6 win over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby. The Chiefs are led by senior tailback who has been the team’s offensive catalyst for the second year in a row. Mauro has raced for a team-leading 1,056 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He also the team’s leading receiver with 10 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. QB Jarrett Michaels (33-94-5, 486, 5 TDs) isn’t afraid to throw the ball.


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.

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