CANTON, April 23 – Canton High took another step Tuesday night toward joining Granby next fall in a co-op football team.
The Canton Board of Education unanimously approved a two-year agreement to form a co-op football team with Granby. The agreement still has to be approved by the CIAC, which will meet on May 14, and by the Pequot Conference.
Granby will be the host school and host four of five home games, Canton Superintendent Kevin Case said. Canton will host one home game although Canton officials were hoping to host at least two games.
“I will continue to advocate for another home game but it doesn’t outweigh the potential benefits of this co-op agreement,” Case said.
Friends of Canton Football, the parent-run booster club that has paid for football at Canton High since the varsity program was reinstated in 2007, has agreed to pick up a vast majority of the cost for the Canton players to participate in Granby.
Based upon 25 players, Friends of Canton Football would need to raise $22,500. That would include transportation. The Canton Board of Education would only be responsible for $3,590 for one coach.
Over the past 12 years, Friends of Canton Football has raised an average of $24,000 a year from their benefit golf tournament in September and some door-to-door fundraising by players in the community.
“Friends of Canton football met and discussed and approved this 100 percent for the future,” said Deidre Lloyd, the Secretary of Friends of Canton Football. “We were presented the same presentation the Board of Education got with the details of the proposed co-op and we supported it.”
Dante Boffi, the current varsity coach at Canton, spoke at the meeting in support of the proposal.
“I am in full support of this co-op. Once you get past the emotion of co-op with arch rival, your nemesis and the team you circle on your calendar they are two similar communities. They are filled with families like you see in this room,” Boffi said.
Granby and Canton have faced each other in their season-ending games each year since 2011 with the old red milk jug going to the victor.
Several Canton players attended the meeting and voiced their support for the co-op proposal. No one spoke against the proposal.
“I think this co-op will be tremendous,” said Boffi, who lives in Granby and has children in the Granby school system. “I have been in communications with a lot of people in Granby and they are excited about it. The kids are excited about it.”
Junior Carter Gavin, who was a captain of last fall’s Canton team, couldn’t attend the meeting because he was playing in a varsity lacrosse game. But he had Boffi read a statement from him.
“I am in full support of this co-op,” Gavin said in his note. “This is a great opportunity for underclassmen to grow in a junior varsity program and learn how to play football without having to go to the varsity field and go up against big senior players. I believe this provide an even safer experience but allowing players on our team to take breaks and not have to play all four quarters.
“This co-op will help ensure Canton football’s survival and help this wonderful (football) family together,” he said.
“Student safety was the No. 1 reason the administration wanted to pursue a co-op program,” Case said.
Case, Jordan Grossman, the assistant superintendent in town, Drew DiPippo, the principal at Canton High and Kim Church, the athletic coordinator at the high school, have been working with Granby officials for the past several months on this proposal.
According to rosters on the CIAC website, Canton had 32 players in the program this fall with 11 seniors. Granby had 31 players with seven seniors.
The CIAC’s co-op football regulations limit schools to just 32 players in grades 9-12 and 25 athletes in grades 10-12.
School officials estimate that 29 Canton players would be interested in playing football next fall with Granby.
Practices would be held at Granby – except for the one week that Canton would host a home game. For that one week, practices would be held in Canton, Case said.
No decisions have been made yet on the coaching staff.
Granby launched their varsity football program in 2010. Their best season was in 2015 when the Bears went 10-0, won the Pequot Conference’s Western Division and qualified for the CIAC Class M playoffs. That was followed by two losing seasons before the Bears went 7-3 last fall under third-year head coach Erik Shortell.
Canton reinstated football in 2007 after a 43-year absence thanks to efforts of parents and Friends of Canton Football. The Warriors’ best years were from 2012-14 under head coach Paul Philippon as Canton won 24 games in three seasons.
In 2014, Canton won the Pequot Uncas Division title and secured the school’s first-ever berth in the Class S tournament. But the Warriors never really had big numbers on their roster. The 2014 championship team had just 27 players on the roster.
In the past four years, Canton has had a pair of 0-10 seasons and a pair of 1-9 seasons under Boffi.