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Granby/Canton co-op hopes to continue winning ways

Granby/Canton’s Luke Maher (24) helped the Bears win a share of the Pequot Uncas Division title a year ago and qualify for the CIAC state playoffs for the second straight season.

GRANBY – The first two seasons of the Granby/Canton co-op football program have resulted in two CIAC playoff berths, a piece of the Pequot Uncas Division championship last fall and 15 wins in 20 contests.

This year’s co-op program is flourishing with more than 50 athletes, including about 20 from Canton. The Bears return six starters on offense and seven on defense.

Granby/Canton head coach Erik Shortell is pleased with the fact that there is competition across the field for spots in the starting lineup. “We have a legitimate depth chart,” he said. “They push each other every day and no one can say I am the starting player. We have depth everywhere, which is nice.”

But it won’t be easy to compete for a Uncas Division title or grab one of the eight spots in the expanded CIAC football playoffs. The Bears are in Class SS – one of six divisions for 2022 (Class LL, L, MM, M, SS and S).

Granby/Canton’s season opens up on Thursday, Sept. 8, against a talented SMSA co-op squad that includes athletes from five Hartford schools followed by a game against the Stafford/East Windsor/Somers squad that shared a piece of the Uncas Division title a year ago.

In October, the Bears face defending Class S champion Cromwell/Portland, Class M finalist Rockville and Ellington in consecutive games over a four-week span.

“We’re going to take it week by week,” he said. “If we stay healthy and better every week, the sky is the limit. We’ve made the playoffs before. Now, let’s see if we can go out and win a (playoff) game. We’ve been close. We just have to finish it.”

In 2019, the Bears dropped a 10-6 decision to Waterford in the Class M quarterfinals. Last year, the Bears fell to hard-running Torrington, 37-29 in the Class M quarterfinals.

Granby/Canton has some experience returning on the offensive side of the ball.

Will Migliaccio, a 6-foot-5 quarterback, returns for the Bears. He completed 92-of-170 passes for 798 yards a year ago. “He looks fantastic,” Shortell said. “He lived in the weight room, doing every offseason workout that was possible.”

Running backs Luke Maher (110-565 rushing, 7 TDs) and Khalil Thomas (48-186, 4 TDs) return along with RB and tight end Will Attianese (17-96 receptions). Receivers Connor Richardson, Brandon Powell and Charlie Attianese look good, too.

The Bears participated in some offseason passing leagues and were seventh out of 33 schools at New Canaan’s Grip It and Rip It passing league tournament.

Only one starter returns on the offensive line (Cooper Boyd) but Shortell is optimistic.

“This group is the hardest working group we had in years,” he said. “These younger guys have bought into

Defensively, there are six starters returning including the entire secondary and linebackers. “The defensive line is young but super fast and agile,” Shortell said.

Granby/Canton football

Head coach: Erik Shortell (6th season, 28-22)
Last year: 7-4, 5-2 Pequot Uncas (shared division title). Lost to Torrington in Class M quarterfinals, 37-29
Co-op partner: Canton (third season)
Last winning season: 2021 (7-4)
Playoff appearances: 3 (0-3)  Last CIAC playoff appearance: 2021
League championships: Two. Most recent title: 2021 Pequot Uncas (shared with Stafford co-op, Rockville)
Opening day record: 4-7. Last win: 2021, beat SMSA co-op, 26-12
Social media: Facebook: Granbyfootball; Twitter: @GMHSfootball 860
Of note: In each of their previous two seasons as a co-op program, Granby/Canton qualified for the CIAC tournament. … The Bears shared the Pequot Uncas title with Rockville and Stafford co-op. It was the first championship for the co-op program… With the departure of Gilbert/Northwestern/Housatonic to the Naugatuck Valley League, the Bears lost their Thanksgiving morning game.

2022 Granby/Canton schedule
Thur. Sept. 8: vs.SMSA co-op (Bulkeley, Classical Magnet, HMTCA, University) at Weaver High, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 16: vs. Stafford/East Windsor/Somers at Stafford, 6:30 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 24: @CREC co-op (1617 King St., Enfield), 11 a.m.
Fri. Sept. 30: vs. WINDSOR LOCKS/SUFFIELD/EAST GRANBY at Canton, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 7: CROMWELL/PORTLAND, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 21: @Rockville, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 28: ELLINGTON, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 4: MORGAN, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 18: @Coventry co-op (Windham Tech, Bolton Lyman Memorial), 6:30 p.m.

2022 Pequot Conference division
Uncas Division:
Stafford co-op, Granby/Canton, Rockville, SMSA co-op, CREC co-op, Coventry co-op, Ellington, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby
Sassacus Division: Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Cromwell/Portland, Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton, Haddam-Killingworth, Capital Prep/Achievement First, Old Saybrook/Westbrook, North Branford, Morgan

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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