CANTON, Nov. 10, 2020 – The Granby Memorial boys soccer team had just lost two straight games to Canton and Suffield and first-year coach Michael Dombrowskl was feeling the heat. Would he get run out of town?
Of course not. This is high school sports. But Dombrowski is well aware of the tradition of success with the Bears program. And he is confident in his players and what they can do.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” he said on Tuesday night after the Bears won their sixth straight game with a 2-1 victory over Canton in the semifinals of the NCCC West Region tournament. “My father (Joe) won two state championships in baseball (at Gilbert School). He always tells me that you as far as your seniors bring you. You want to be better in November than you were in September.”
Granby (9-2) advances to the final of the NCCC West Region tournament on Thursday at 2 p.m. when they visit Suffield. The Wildcats (10-1-1) beat Windsor Locks on Tuesday, 5-0. Canton (8-3) will conclude their season on Thursday by hosting Windsor Locks at 4 p.m.
In mid-October, Canton stood tall in a 2-1 victory over Granby – their first win over the Bears since 2015 and just the eighth win over Granby since Canton joined the NCCC in 1984.
In Granby’s next game, they dropped a 1-0 decision to Suffield.
“After that loss here (in Canton), the guys took it upon themselves (to get better. They discovered) a second gear that we can get to,” Dombrowski said.
Granby frequently beat Canton to the ball on Tuesday night, enabling them to control long stretches of the contest. Canton’s success is built upon speed and quick passes but the Bears were able to disrupt the Warrior offense for much of the game.
Canton had their chances and cut a two-goal lead in half on an outstanding goal from London Abbott. Teammate Nate Lincoln made a nice cross-field pass that Abbott chased down. Granby goalie Brayden Milbrandt came out to challenge Abbott but his hard shot deflected off his hands and into the net with 5:51 left in the first half.
The Warriors hit the crossbar in the second half and hit the near post with 20:29 remaining.
“I think in the second half, we did a better job controlling the ball,” Canton assistant coach John Manners said. “We had better opportunities. We had a few off the post.”
Manners and junior varsity coach Chris Weller ran the team on Tuesday because long-time head coach Bill Phelps was in quarantine. Phelps was working at Cherry Brook School in town and there was a positive test for COVID-19 by a person at the school. In an effort to limit spread of the contagious virus, Phelps was home. He spoke to them before the game on the phone.
“The kids were ready to play and he told them to play their game,” Manners said. “I think we played a good game. We got off to a slow start. It was good soccer and the kids have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s unfortunate that there is no state tournament this year for the kids. I think in Class S we would have done really well.”
Granby took a 1-0 lead on a goal set up on another long shot from 30 yards away. Grady Kelly had two goals from more than 25 yards away into the upper corner of the net in Granby’s 5-1 win over Canton a week ago.
On Tuesday, it was Will Caley with a shot from 30 yards away that Canton goalie Nicholas Morabito punched out of the area. But the rebound fell to the feet of Kelly, who quickly popped it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Bears made it 2-0 with 18:41 remaining in the first half. Caley made a spectacular pass that crossed in front of the goal and it was Colby Milbrandt who hustled between two Canton defenders and got a foot on the ball to get it past Morabito in a bang, bang play.
“Canton still plays (defense) with a sweeper so we neutralized him with two players and it freed up our more skilled plays to attack the seams and make us more dynamic with our attack,” Dombrowski said.
Morabito made six saves in net for the Warriors. Granby’s Kelly has scored five goals in the last three games, including three in the 5-0 shutout win over Canton a week ago. The Warriors have three losses this season — all to Class M schools Granby and Suffield.
Granby 2, Canton 1
Granby (9-2) 2 0 — 2
Canton (8-3) 1 0 — 1
Goals: London Abbott (Ca), Grady Kelly (G), Colby Mibrandt (G); Assists: Will Caley (G) 2, Nathan Lincoln (Ca); Saves: Nicholas Morabito (Ca) 6, Brayden Milbrandt (G) 2
NCCC West tournament
Semifinals: Tuesday, Nov. 10
Suffield 5, Windsor Locks 0
Granby 2, Canton 1
Thursday, Nov. 12
Final: Granby at Suffield, 2 p.m.
Third place: Windsor Locks at Canton, 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 9
East Granby 4, SMSA 3
Wednesday, Nov. 11
HMTCA at SMSA
Friday, Nov. 13
East Granby at HMTCA