WINSTED, Sept. 29 – The Canton High football team is still learning how to win. They absorbed a stinging lesson on preparing to do that.
Gilbert/Northwestern’s Chase Sanden ran for 51 yards and three touchdowns while All-Pequot Conference linebacker Alex Smith ran for two touchdowns and 77 yards as the Yellowjackets rolled over Canton, 45-14 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for football in northwest Connecticut at Van Why Field.
Gilbert’s Marco Folino had a team-high 86 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. The host Yellowjackets ran for 289 yards and seven touchdowns, breaking tackles on several touchdown runs.
And the Yellowjacket defense frequently swarmed Canton runners, stopping them for short gains and forcing them to absorb punishing hits.
Warrior QB Dugan Lloyd was able to escape on a few long runs in the second half and ran for a career-high 173 yards on 18 carries. But he also threw an interception and had the ball stripped from him after a 38-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Canton coach Dante Boffi had seen his team play competitive football in the first three weeks of the season. He wasn’t expected his team to be steamrolled on Saturday.
“We assumed based on things we did well in past games and things we saw on tape that Gilbert roll over for us,” Boffi said. “We’re on that journey (to learn) what it takes to win games. When you assume if that if we just show up we’re going to get the (win), this is what happens.
“You get smacked in the mouth early and you don’t respond like you should,” he said. “The way we performed, we got exactly what we deserved. Give credit to the Gilbert kids. They played hard for four quarters.”
Gilbert/Northwestern head coach Scott Salius was pleased to see his team move the ball on the ground and play solid defense.
“We’re working on improving our speed to the ball,” he said. “We’re not quite there yet to beat some other teams (in the league) but it’s improved over last week.”
Salius was pleased with the effort after a tough few weeks. A sophomore student at Northwestern died unexpectedly on September 20 that hit the Northwestern community hard. And Steven Rines, the 62-year-old brother of Gilbert assistant coach Jeff Rines, passed away on Sunday. The Yellowjackets hung Steven Rines’ high school jersey in the end zone.
“You can’t go through the motions and expect to win,” Salius said. “If we play hard, we can be as good as any of the teams left on our schedule.”
Gilbert/Northwestern (2-2, 1-2 Pequot Uncas) took the lead on their first drive of the game, driving 52 yards on eight plays with Sanden scoring from 15 yards away. The extra point was no good.
Canton (0-4, 0-3 Pequot Uncas) responded with perhaps their best drive of the day. Carter Gavin gained 16 yards on his first three carries. Lloyd completed an 11-yard pass to Colin Mackin on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Lloyd found Mackin on a 30-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 6-6. Canton’s two-point conversion run failed due to a bobbled snap.
On Canton’s next possession, the Warriors were deep in their own territory. A bad pitch on an option run was recovered by Gavin on the five-yard line. Lloyd’s punt was blocked and the Yellowjackets took over the Canton nine-yard line.
Smith scored from the nine to give Gilbert a 13-6 lead with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.
Gilbert’s defense rose again, intercepting Lloyd on Canton’s next possession. The Yellowjackets moved 63 yards on seven plays with Smith breaking tackles to score on a 34-yard touchdown run with 7:12 left in the first half for a 19-6 lead.
In the third quarter, Sanden had two touchdown runs as the lead swelled to 32-6. A 68-yard run from Folino gave Gilbert a 39-6 advantage.
One of the signature plays of the day for the Yellowjackets was a fourth down and 2 run from the 50-yard line by Smith early in the fourth quarter. He took the ball, ran up the middle of the field but refused to go down. In the midst of a crowd of Gilbert and Canton players, Smith literally carried several Canton defenders on a 16-yard gain.
“This was about one team wanting it more than the other team,” Boffi said. “So, credit the Gilbert players and staff, they deserved the win.”
In the fourth quarter, Lloyd had a 28-yard scramble to the one-yard line that lead to Canton’s second touchdown. Joey Fitzgerald scored from the one and added a two-point conversion run.
Canton returns to action in search of their first win when they host Ellington on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at the turf field at the high school.
NOTES: Gilbert/Northwestern has won 10 of the 12 games between the two schools since Canton resurrected the program in 2007. … Canton did well returning kickoffs. Carter Gavin returned two kicks for 31 yards while Joey Fitzgerald returned two kickoffs for 54 yards. … Drew Ferrone had an interception for Canton while Mitchell Williams recovered a fumble.
Gilbert/Northwestern 45, Canton 14
Canton (0-4) 6 0 0 8 – 14
Gilbert/NWR (2-2) 13 6 13 6 — 45
G: Chase Sanden 15 run (kick fails), 8:17
C: Colin Mackin 30 pass from Dugan Lloyd (run fails), 3:48
G: Alex Smith 9 run (Josh Hamel kick), 0:21
G: Smith 34 run (kick blocked), 7:12
G: C. Sanden 16 run (Hamel kick), 8:31
G: C. Sanden 16 run (kick wide), 3:27
G: Marco Folino 68 run (Hamel kick), 10:05
C: Joey Fitzgerald 1 run (Fitzgerald run), 7:26
G: Folino 14 run (kick fails), 3:54
RUSHING: Gilbert/NWR – Hunter Sanden 3-19, Ryan Van Dyke 1-9, Marco Folino 4-86, Eric Lissy 6-34, Alex Smith 10-77, Chase Sanden 6-51, Cameron Mulligan 2-11; Canton – Dugan Lloyd 18-173, Nathan Biega 3-11, Joey Fitzgerald 3-3, Carter Gavin 13-64, Braydon Fluckiger 2-2, team 2-minus 18
PASSING: Gilbert/NWR – Eric Lissy 3-5-0, 49, Chase Sanden 0-1-1; Canton – Dugan Lloyd 8-20-1, 84
RECEIVING: Gilbert/NWR – Alex Smith 1-4, Cameron Mulligan 1-25, C. Sanden 1-20; Canton – Colin Mackin 2-41, Michael Bronson 2-1, Carter Gavin 1-9, Joey Fitzgerald 3-24, Nathan Biega 1-8
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Morgan Ossolinski (G), Mitchell Williams (Ca); INTERCEPTIONS: Cameron Mulligan (G); Drew Ferrone (Ca)
RETURNS: Kickoff – Folino (G) 1-24, C. Sanden (G) 1-11; Carter Gavin (Ca) 2-31, Michael Brosnan (Ca) 1-20, Joey Fitzgerald (Ca) 2-54; Colin Mackin (Ca) 1-32