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CIAC approves Canton and Granby proposal to form co-op football team

Canton running back Carter Gavin (21) tries to break free in a game last September against Gilbert/Northwestern.

CANTON, May 17 – The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has approved the application from Canton and Granby to form a co-op football team, according to CIAC and Canton High officials.

The CIAC’s co-op team committee gave the two schools a one-year approval, which means the two schools will have to apply for permission to continue the co-op following the 2019 season. Canton and Granby had applied for a two-year agreement.

The team will begin play this September in the Pequot Conference, which also approved the co-op proposal.

Granby will be the host school and the team will play under the Bear colors and name. Granby will host four of five home games, Canton Superintendent Kevin Case said in April. Canton will host one home game.

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.

CIAC and school officials did not say why the CIAC committee approved a one-year deal instead of two years. But it could be because both schools are close to the limit of players allowed in a co-op football program.

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.

No decisions have been made yet on the coaching staff. Dante Boffi has been the head coach at Canton for the past two seasons. Boffi said he will be part of the co-op coaching staff but no decisions have been made on who will be taking what position.

Erik Shortell has been the head coach at Granby the last three years. Boffi said staff assignments will be determined in a meeting next week.

Granby quarterback Jackson Rome (10) scrambles for yardage in last Thanksgiving Eve’s 20-7 win over Canton in the snow.

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.

Friends of Canton Football spoke in support of the co-op proposal at a recent meeting of the Canton Board of Education in April when the board approved the proposal. Several current players spoke in favor of the proposal, too.

“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.

Six of Canton’s 10 Pequot Conference games last season were against co-op teams. Eight of the 20 teams in the Pequot Conference a year ago were co-op teams.

The league is down to 15 teams for 2019 with Canton forming a co-op with Granby and Lewis Mills leaving for the Central Connecticut Conference. Some league realignment will be in order since Canton and Lewis Mills were in the nine-team Pequot Uncas Division.

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 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.

 

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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