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Deeper Granby/Canton co-op team has eyes on contending in Pequot

Quarterback Jackson Rome has been the starting QB for the Bears since the second half of his freshman year.

GRANBY, September 10 – Granby Memorial head coach Erik Shortell knew he would have some talented and experienced football players returning for the 2019 campaign. His Bears went 7-3 a year ago for the third winning season in the team’s history.

Shortell knew that quarterback Jackson Rome would be coming back for his third year. Running back Sam Attianese would be back to start for a fourth season with Dylan Disabella returning for his third year as a starter at running back and linebacker.

The Bears got a boost last April when they agreed to form a co-op team with Canton. It’s the first co-op experience for both schools but the Bears have picked up some additional depth that will strengthen the squad this fall.

Senior Carter Gavin, who set a Canton school record rushing for 235 yards as a freshman, will start at running back and middle linebacker. Colin Mackin will start at wide receiver and play at safety.

For the first time in a long time, there is competition for playing time. “Every day is a competition, which is good for us,” said Shortell, who is entering his fourth season. “We have some No. 2 guys who would be starters at other schools.”

There are 32-to-34 players from Granby in the program with 20 players from Canton. The Warriors consistently struggled to put players on the field since they 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. The 2014 championship team had just 27 players on the roster.

“Student safety was the No. 1 reason the administration wanted to pursue a co-op program,” Canton Superintendent Kevin Case said last spring during discussions regarding the co-op program.

The Warrior players have stepped right in with Granby. Players from both towns participated in preseason conditioning and passing leagues.

“We’ve been together for a while now that is great,” Shortell said. “It’s been fantastic. The kids are good and both communities are fantastic.

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.

Granby could contend for a Pequot Conference championship and one of eight berths in the Class M tournament. “We’re a hungry team that works hard every day,” Shortell said. “We look forward to having some fun and see where we can go.”

Sam Attianese has been an all-around threat for the Bears.

With the departure of Canton and Lewis Mills – to the Central Connecticut Conference, the Pequot Conference is down to 15 teams so it will be one large conference – no divisions this fall.

Still, Granby/Canton will face seven opponents from the former Uncas Division where both teams played last fall and three opponents from the former Sassacus Division.

Three of Granby/Canton’s first five games are against teams that made the CIAC playoffs a year ago. The Bears open the season at Stafford/East Windsor/Somers (11-1), who advanced to the Class S semifinals a year ago. In week three, the Bears will play Rockville (7-4) in Canton on September 27. The Rams earned a Class M tournament berth last year.

In week five, the Bears will travel to Haddam-Killingworth (11-2), which won two playoff games and played in the Class S championship game.

“Our overall goal is to get better every day. Never settle and stay humble. If we can do that, the sky is the limit,” Shortell said.

Rome will be playing QB for the fourth year for Granby/Canton. He earned the starting QB job with four games remaining in his freshman year and has behind center ever since. He has thrown for 22 TDs and 1,666 yards in his career. He completed 62-of-122 passes for 10 TDs and 11 interceptions last year.

On the ground, Rome, has rushed for 1,105 yards and 15 TDs in his career including 610 yards and 9 TDs a year ago.

Attianese has been an all-purpose threat for Granby. He has rushed for 700 and 10 TDs in his career while catching 20 passes for 277 yards and 3 TDs. He will be handling extra points and returning punts and kickoffs. Defensively, he has 131 tackles in his career.

Disabella will be playing receiver and linebacker for the Bears. A year ago, he had 66 tackles and three interceptions as a sophomore.

Gavin, who had 725 yards rushing and four TDs in 2017, has rushed for 1,526 yards in his career. Mackin has caught 23 passes for 615 yards and seven TDs over the past two seasons.

Dante Boffi, who was Canton’s head coach for the past two seasons, is part of the Granby/Canton coaching staff along with former Canton head coach Roger Pearl, who has been part of the Bears’ staff for several years. Pearl coached Canton for four years (2008-11).

NOTES: This is the first year of a co-op that received a one-year approval from the CIAC last spring. … Four home games will be in Granby. The co-op program will face Rockville at Canton on the turf field on Friday, Sept. 27. … Canton was 1-9 the past two seasons. … The co-op team received one vote in the New Haven Register’s top 10 football poll.

10th season (42-51)                              First season: 2010
Playoff appearances: 1, (0-1)            Most recent appearance: 2015
League championships: One            Most recent title: 2015 Pequot West
Winningest coach: Rich Gadoury, 27-16, four years (2012-15)
Opening Day record: 2-7

Head coach: Erik Shortell, fourth season (13-17)
Last season: 7-3, 6-2 Pequot Uncas

2019 schedule
Friday, Sept. 13: at Stafford/EW/Somers, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20: ELLINGTON, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27: vs. ROCKVILLE at Canton, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4: at SMSA/University/Classical at Anne Fisher Middle School, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 11: at Haddam-Killingworth, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 25: WINDSOR LOCKS/SUFFIELD/E. GRANBY, 6:30 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 2: at Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton, 1 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 8: at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Mem., 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 15: GILBERT/NORTHWESTERN, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 22: OLD SAYBROOK/WESTBROOK, 6:30 p.m.

2019 Pequot Conference

  League Overall
Coginchaug co-op 0-0 0-0
Coventry co-op 0-0 0-0
Cromwell/Portland 0-0 0-0
Ellington 0-0 0-0
Gilbert/Northwestern 0-0 0-0
Haddam-Killingworth 0-0 0-0
Morgan 0-0 0-0
North Branford 0-0 0-0
Old Saybrook/Westbrook 0-0 0-0
Rockville 0-0 0-0
SMSA co-op 0-0 0-0
Stafford co-op 0-0 0-0
Valley Reg./Old Lyme 0-0 0-0
Windsor Locks co-op 0-0 0-0

Co-op programs (Host school listed first)
Stafford/East Windsor/Somers
Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby
Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton
Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial

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

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