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With nine starters returning on both sides of the ball, Granby is optimistic

Receiver Keon Lawrence is one of nine starters returning for Granby on offense this fall.

GRANBY, Sept. 7 – After a magical 2015 campaign when the Granby High football team went undefeated (10-0) in the regular season, won the Pequot Conference championship and went to the CIAC Class M playoffs for the first time, the Bears got back to the basics of building a program in 2016.

With a young roster, the Bears started six freshmen last fall and just two players that had played varsity football. Not surprisingly, the Bears (2-8) struggled to win games but they did earn victories over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby co-op team and Canton on Thanksgiving morning, 43-20.

Hopes are higher this fall for second-year coach Erik Shortell. The Bears are returning nine starters on both sides of the ball – offense and defense.

“We are very fast and physical at the skill positions with lots of depth,” Shortell said. “We have a high-powered offense and a very fast and physical defense. If we stay healthy, we can stick with the best of teams.”

It’s a well-balanced team in terms of age with 10 seniors on the roster, 12 juniors, 10 sophomores and nine freshmen.

Sophomore Jackson Rome returns at quarterback. He completed 9-of-17 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns a year ago in four games. But the Bears completed just 25 passes for 337 yards in the entire season.

Senior Matt Jacobs, juniors Keon Lawrence, Christain Warren and Logan Disabella and sophomore Samuel Attianese should see time at running back. Look for junior Andel Smith and Luke Kenney at wide receiver and junior Conor Hogan at tight end.

Junior Ben Libby and senior Kyle Courtney have looked sharp on the offensive line in preseason workouts.

Defensively, look for Jacobs and Kenney at linebacker, Kibby (77 tackles, six sacks and 13 tackles for loss last fall), Hogan and Courtney on the defensive line and Attianese (team-leading three interceptions), Lawrence (44 tackles) and Disabella in the defensive backfield.

The Pequot Conference realigned their divisions for the fifth consecutive season and the Bears find themselves back in the Uncas Division with seven schools that they compete against in the NCCC along with the Gilbert/Northwestern co-op team from the Berkshire League.

Rockville is the newest member of the NCCC and the Pequot Conference, joining in September after spending more than 44 years as a charter member of the Central Connecticut Conference.

Granby has two Sassacus Division contests beginning with Friday night’s season opener at North Branford against the Thunderbirds at Colafati Field. North Branford went 6-4 a year ago and returns QB Jeff Jablonski, who threw for nearly 1,000 yards and six TDs a year ago.

The home opener for the Bears is against Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby co-op squad on Friday, September 15. Nine of Granby’s 10 games are scheduled to be played under the lights.

Friday, Sept. 8: at North Branford, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 15: Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23: At Old Saybrook/Westbrook, noon
Friday, Sept. 29: Ellington, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6: at Stafford/East Windsor, 6:30 p.m.
Bye week
Friday, Oct. 20: SMSA/University/Classical, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27: Rockville, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3: at Gilbert/Northwestern, 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10: at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 22: Canton, 6:30 p.m.

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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