GRANBY, November 22 – A year ago, the football season ended for Canton’s Carter Gavin on a snow-covered field as the undermanned Canton High football team lost for the 18th time in 20 games to rival Granby, who finished with a 7-3 record.
Twelve months later, Gavin played what may have been his final high school football team. Now, he is a member of the Granby/Canton co-op football team. He hurt his leg after his only carry of the game but he was still smiling.
Gavin and his teammates from Canton are part of a winning program this year. With a dominating 42-0 Pequot Conference win over Old Saybrook/Westbrook on Friday night, Granby/Canton finished with an 8-2 record – the second-best regular season record in Granby history.
The Bears are hopeful they can be one of the eight teams that qualify for the upcoming CIAC Class M tournament and with a little help, they could make their first playoff berth since 2015.
“We’re firing on all cylinders right now,” Granby/Canton coach Erik Shortell said. “It would be a true shame if the football gods don’t help us out and get us into the playoffs. Right now, I would be worried about us (if he was an opposing coach). We’re peaking right now.”
The Bears closed out the season with four straight wins. Quarterback Jackson Rome, who ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns, has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last four games along with nine touchdowns. He had 102 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries Friday against the visiting Rams.
Sam Attianese scored on an 83-yard touchdown run while Simon Matthews had a 28-yard interception return for the Bears, who have caused 30 turnovers this season in 10 games. Malik Brown-Smith also had an interception for Granby/Canton.
Gavin was one of 20 Canton players who make the trip to Granby each day to play on the co-op team with the Bears. In his first three varsity seasons, Gavin seldom left the field because there were so few players on the Canton roster.
Gavin, who once ran for a school record 235 yards against Morgan as a freshman in 2016, rushed for just 100 yards this season. At Canton, he was a linebacker. This year, he played some defense until he turned an ankle and was limited to just offense.
But it’s been OK. Gavin is still playing and he is on a winning program for the first time in his scholastic career. “This has been such a different experience,” he said. “I was so used to being on a team of 20-something kids with everything on the line. It is not about taking a play off but being able to do that and not feel like you’re jeopardizing the team.”
Gavin is thrilled to, perhaps, have a chance to make an appearance in the CIAC playoffs. “I think it is awesome,” he said. “It is something that not many people get to experience in their lifetime. I am really excited.”
The Bears are currently ranked sixth in the CIAC’s Class M rankings. Watertown, New Fairfield and Weston are some of the contenders for the playoffs. Granby/Canton won’t know until Thanksgiving evening if they have earned enough points in the CIAC rankings to qualify.
Granby/Canton coach Erik Shortell said. “It was great on how the kids came together. We’re a team now. It doesn’t matter what town the kids came from what we did in previous years. They just gelled. It is on them for doing for their job and doing it well.”
Granby/Canton used big plays to pull away from the Rams (2-7). Three of the five rushing touchdowns for the Bears were at least 52 yards and Simon Matthews picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter with 4:25 left in the game.
Sam Attianese put the Bears on the board with an 83-yard run with 7:40 left in the first quarter. Rome scored on runs of 32 and 65 yards to give the Bears a 20-0 lead.
On Granby’s second offensive play of the third quarter, it was Dylan Disabella with a 52 yard touchdown run and a 27-0 lead.
Matthews scored on his 28-yard interception return and senior lineman Daniel Litin scored for the first time in his career, running in the two-point conversion with 7:55 left in the third period for a 35-0 advantage.
Attianese ran for a game-high 111 yards and a touchdown on five carriers for the Bears while Disabella ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Defensively, Dontel Williams had nine tackles, one tackle for a loss and one sack for eight yards. Malique Thompson had nine tackles, including three for a loss, while Malik Brown-Smith had eight tackles and an interception. Attianese had six tackles and five tackles each from Devin Flaff, Disabella and Brady Kaluna.
Old Saybrook/Westbrook (2-7) was led by Cameron Neely, who ran for 49 yards on 17 carries. Edward Fernades, Jr., ran for 47 yards on 10 carries while Will Bergeron ran for 45 yards on 14 carries.
Granby/Canton 42, Old Saybrook/Westbrook 0
Old Saybrook/WB (2-7) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Granby/Canton (8-2) 7 13 15 7 — 42
GC: Sam Attianese 83 run (Attianese kick), 7:40
GC: Jackson Rome 32 run (Attianese kick), 4:54
GC: Rome 65 run (kick fails), 1:25
GC: Dylan Disabella 52 run (Attianese kick), 11:01
GC: Simon Matthews 28 interception return (Daniel Litin run), 7:55
GC: Sam Schock 15 run (Attianese kick), 4:25
RUSHING: Granby/Canton – Jackson Rome 10-102, Sam Attianese 5-111, Dylan Disabella 4-59, Sam Schock 3-18, Carter Gavin 1-7; Old Saybrook/Westbrook – Edward Fernandes, Jr., 10-47, Cameron Neely 17-49, Will Bergeron 14-45, Brendan Novajosky 1-0, Greg McCormack 1-2
PASSING: Granby/Canton – Jackson Rome 3-6-1, 41; Old Saybrook/Westbrook – Fernandes 0-1-0, Neely 0-1-0, Bergeron 0-4-2
RECEIVING: Granby/Canton – Sam Schock 1-16, Simon Matthews 1-13, Collin Makin 1-12
SACKS: Ben Longest (GC) 1-8; INTERCEPTIONS: Malik Brown-Smith (GC) 1-10; Sean Wilcox (OSW) 1-0, Simon Matthew (GC) 1-28
RETURNS: Kickoffs – Neely (OSW) 4-55, Fernandes 1-0, Connor Nadeau (GC) 1-31