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BOE to consider proposal for Canton to form co-op football team with Granby

Even in 2014 when Canton won a Pequot Uncas Division title and qualified for the Class S playoffs, they had just 27 players on the team.

CANTON, April 22 – The Canton Board of Education will meet on Tuesday and consider a proposal that would have Canton and Granby form a co-op football team next fall.

Canton and Granby have already submitted a proposal to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) asking for permission to form a co-op program, according to Kim Church, the athletic director in Canton. The CIAC is expected to meet on May 14 and consider the application.

Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Cherry Brook School.

Officials in Canton and Granby have been negotiating over the past several weeks about the details for the co-op. The proposal is for a two-year agreement, said Canton head coach Dante Boffi, who is supporting the proposal.

“This would provide kids a more rounded experience to be on a football team with 40-to-50 kids,” Boffi said. “It was the potential to be something positive for both communities.”

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.

Granby would be the host school, Church and Boffi confirmed. Other details such as the coaching staff, practice locations and game locations are still being discussed. A report in the Valley Press, which first reported this story in their April 19 edition, said that uniforms would have “Bears” on it instead of the name of Granby.

Boffi said the co-op would be helpful for the athletes from both schools.

“Having competition for playing time is healthy for the kids,” he said. “They work hard and it is more motivating. There is no way kids can rest on their laurels (and keep playing).”

Granby launched their varsity football program in 2010. Their best season so far was in 2015 when the Bears went 10-0 and won the Pequot Conference’s Western Division. The Bears qualified for the CIAC Class M playoffs before losing to Seymour. That was followed by two losing seasons before the Bears went 7-3 last fall under third-year head coach Erik Shortell.

Canton and Granby have played against each other in a traditional season-ending football game each year since 2011 with the prize of the old red milk jug going to the victor.

Granby gave up a school-record low 102 points this season along with beating Canton to win the old red milk jug last November.

Low numbers have always been a challenge for the football program in Canton. The Warriors had a football program from 1934-64 and didn’t have a large number of athletes on the teams. But it worked because there was no soccer or cross country programs at that time. Also, until the late 1950s, Canton was a regional school with students from Avon and Burlington attending.

The number of students and potential athletes began to drop once Avon built and opened its own high school in 1958 and Burlington teamed up with Harwinton to form the Region 10 school district and opened Lewis Mills in 1961.

Canton dropped its football program after three games in 1960. They resumed varsity play in 1963 but again dropped the program after four games in 1964 due to low numbers.

Varsity football returned in 2007 thanks to efforts of parents and the Friends of Canton football booster club. The group organized a club team in 2006 and that turned into a varsity team in 2007 that played 10 games on the road.

From 2007-11, Canton had one winning season until Paul Philippon was named coach. Philippon led the Warriors from 2012-14, winning 24 games in three seasons and leading Canton to the 2014 Pequot Uncas Division title and helping the Warriors earn the school’s first-ever berth in the Class S tournament.

The 2014 program was the best Canton football team in school history but there were just 27 players on the roster including eight seniors. The program had 37 players in 2012 when the Warriors went 7-3 under Philippon. A year later, it dipped to 34 players.

In 2016, the Warriors had 25 players on the team and in this game, they dressed just 18 players.

Chris Currier took over in 2015 and had nearly 40 players to begin the season. By the end of the season, there were less than 30 players on the team. Some players left before the season was even complete. Canton went 0-10.

In 2016, the Warriors went 0-10 under coach Mike Guy with 25 players on the roster. During one mid-season game, there were just 18 healthy players dressed to play for Canton.

In the past two seasons under Boffi, the Warriors had 26 players in 2017 and 31 in 2018.

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. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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