CANTON, Sept. 3 – The building blocks continue to be put in place for the Canton High football team.
It’s been a struggle for the past three seasons for the Warriors, who have been overmatched in a majority of games. Canton hasn’t had many players the past three seasons and many of players they had were small and inexperienced.
Seldom does a high school football team experience success at the varsity level playing sophomores and freshmen.
But second-year head coach Dante Boffi is upbeat about the 2018 campaign. He has 35 players on the roster and nine seniors. Yes, he has nearly 15 freshmen and sophomores but the Warriors (1-9, 0-8 Pequot Uncas) are a bit older and stronger.
And there is that excitement under playing under permanent lights that were installed in August at the high school field thanks to a two-year effort by the community to raise more than $203,000.
“Last year, we just wanted to compete,” Boffi said. “We didn’t want to be out of the game by halftime. And for eight of 10 games, we did that. We left a few wins on the table.
“This year, we in to win – every game,” he said. “I believe in my heart we should be in every football game we play. I know these kids and we’re in the second year of this system.”
The Warriors won’t find any cupcakes on the schedule. They face three teams that went to the CIAC playoffs a year ago and return a majority of their squads – Stafford/East Windsor/Somers, SMSA/University High/Hartford Classical and Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial.
Junior running back and middle linebacker Carter Gavin already has two seasons of varsity experience. As a freshman, he ran for a single game school record 235 yards against Morgan. A year ago, he ran for a team-high 725 yards and four TDs while pulling in 19 receptions for 167 yards.
Senior guard Charlie Parchen anchors the offensive line and plays defensive tackle.
Senior Donovan Mackin is just 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds but he caught 17 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown a year ago. “He plays like he is double that size,” Boffi said.
Senior linebacker Ryan Delehoy, senior defensive end Joey Fitzgerald and junior defensive end Max Klinkert look solid on the defensive side of the ball.
At quarterback, senior Dugan Lloyd will be starting on opening night against the Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton co-op under the lights at the high school.
Lloyd saw some spot duty as a freshman but has logged plenty of the playing time the past two years. He completed 37 of 113 passes for 501 yards and a two touchdowns a year ago while scrambling for 164 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
“Like many coaches, I am really tough on quarterbacks,” Boffi said. “But he’s so mentally strong. When things are down, he steps to the forefront.”
Canton returns three of their top receivers from a year ago including leading receiver Gavin Wood, who caught 21 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns, Donovan Mackin and Carter Gavin.
The 35 player squad is the largest squad since the 2013 team under Paul Philippon that went 7-4. The 2014 Canton team that won a Pequot Uncas championship and qualified for the Class S state tournament had a roster of just 27 players.
The Warriors open the season on Saturday night at 6 p.m. against Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton in their first football game under permanent lights at the high school. Since the field was opened in 2013, Canton has played five games at home under temporary portable lights
Canton plays just four games at home this season – all under the lights. The Warriors should have played Nonnewaug at home but the Chiefs program folded in the offseason. Canton will travel to Woodstock Academy for a non-league contest in late October.
The other home games for Canton include Ellington (Oct. 5), SMSA/University/Classical (Nov. 2), Rockville (Nov. 9) and Granby (Nov. 21) on Thanksgiving Eve.
Canton football 2018
|Sat. Sept. 8||COGINCHAUG/HALE-RAY/EAST HAMPTON, 6 p.m.|
|Fri. Sept. 14||At Stafford/East Windsor/Somers, 6:30 p.m.|
|Fri. Sept. 21||At Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Mem. 7|
|Sat. Sept. 29||At Gilbert/Northwestern, 1 p.m.|
|Fri. Oct. 5||ELLINGTON, 7 p.m.|
|Sat. Oct. 20||At Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby, 1 p.m.|
|Sat. Oct. 27||At Woodstock Academy, 1 p.m.|
|Fri. Nov. 2||SMSA/UNIVERSITY/CLASSICAL, 7 p.m.|
|Fri. Nov. 9||ROCKVILLE, 7 p.m.|
|Wed. Nov. 21:||GRANBY, 6 p.m.|
2017 Pequot Uncas Division
|Windsor Locks/Suffield/E. Granby||2-6||4-6|
|x-won Uncas Division title
y-qualified for CIAC playoffs