ENFIELD, Sept. 24, 2022 – In the past two seasons, Granby/Canton senior Luke Maher shown an uncanny nose for the football and the ability to score touchdowns for the Bears.
It’s not the number of touchdowns that makes you turn your head and watch each time that No. 24 gets his hands on the ball. It is the way he has scored touchdowns.
Maher has run for touchdowns, which is par for the course for a running back. But he has also run back an interception for a touchdown and last October, he ran back a kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown against Ellington.
On Saturday, Maher tied a state record by running back two fumble recoveries for touchdowns as the Bears won their second straight game with a 33-6 Pequot Conference Uncas Division victory over the CREC co-op football team. Maher, who recovered three fumbles in the game, ran back a fumble 24 yards early in the first quarter for a touchdown that gave Granby/Canton a 10-0 lead.
In the third quarter, his teammate William Attianese forced a fumble and Maher scooped up a loose ball and zipped 74 yards down the sideline for another touchdown.
According to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book, the only other player known to run back two fumbles for touchdowns in a single game was Jahvon Olmstead of Capital Prep/First Achievement against Windham in 2019.
Maher has run back fumbles for touchdowns three times in the last three weeks. He had a 40-yard fumble recovery for a TD in the season-opening loss to the SMSA co-op squad.
“Some people say I have magnets to the ball but it is (being in) the right place at the right time,” Maher said. “My (teammates) are making plays stripping the ball and it comes right to me.”
On CREC’s second offensive play of the game, Granby/Canton’s Carter Chambers forced CREC quarterback Kevin Agba to cough up the ball and Maher scooped it up for a 24-yard return.
In the third quarter, CREC ate up much of the quarter with a long drive, using 15 plays to march to the Granby/Canton 19-yard line. This time, it was William Attianese who forced Colts’ running back Ju-Sean Thomas to cough up the ball and Maher grabbed it and sped away.
“I am thinking about getting the ball and getting as many yards as I can,” said Maher, who plays basketball at Canton High and plans to play lacrosse this spring. “I am just trying to do what I can to make plays for us.”
He nearly had a third fumble recovery for a touchdown late in the game. CREC’s Taurin Nesmith intercepted a pass from Granby/Canton QB Will Migliaccio around the five-yard line and tried to move back upfield. Before he could go down, John Nolan popped the ball out of Nesmith’s arms and Maher scooped it up and raced five yards into the end zone.
But the officials waved it off. Nesmith’s movement forward was halted by the Bear defense and he was down by contact before the ball was jarred loose.
“Luke is just a competitor he has that drive that you just can’t coach,” Granby/Canton coach Erik Shortell said. “He is always where the ball is and trying to make a play. He is just a magnet for the ball.”
Maher had a 10-yard punt return in the game, caught a seven-yard pass from Migliaccio and ran for a team-high 70 yards on nine carries.
Granby/Canton (2-1, 2-1 Pequot Uncas) took a 3-0 lead on a 38-yard field goal from George Horst on the opening drive of the game. It was 10-0 after Maher scored on his first fumble return.
The Bears made it 17-0 with Migliaccio finding William Attianese for a 19-yard touchdown reception with 2:23 remaining in the first quarter. Maher ran for 19 yards on five carries in the seven-play drive.
Granby/Canton extended the lead to 24-0 when Migliaccio hit Connor Richardson with an eight-yard TD reception with 5:08 left in the second quarter.
The Bears added a safety boosting the lead to 26-0 when Saladin Atkinson sacked CREC QB Kevin Agba in the end zone with a 14-yard loss with 2:09 left in the second quarter.
CREC (Capital Region Education Council) is a team with players from three CREC schools. The Colts (1-2, 1-2 Pequot Uncas) did get on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Elijah Williams got a step on a defender and scored on a 53-yard touchdown reception from Agba.
CREC had minus 47 yards rushing on 12 carries after two quarters. The Colts finished with two yards rushing on 34 carries.
Atkinson had a team-leading eight tackles, five tackles for a loss and a sack to along with his safety. Maher had five tackles on defense while Cooper Boyd had four tackles, one forced fumble and a blocked punt. Tristan Sidrane added five tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss.
NOTES: There are six ways to score a touchdown in high school football – a run or pass, an interception return, a fumble return, a punt return and a kickoff return. Maher has yet to score on a touchdown reception or run back a punt. … Maher’s 74-yard fumble return is a new co-op record. Granby and Canton have played three seasons (2019, 2021 and 2022) together. His 81-yard kickoff return is also a co-op record. … Migliaccio completed 11-of-26 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. William Attianese caught five passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Richardson caught three passes for 36 yards. … Horst scored seven points kicking with a 38-yard field goal and four successful extra points. … This is the first year in the Pequot Conference for CREC, which played in the Eastern Connecticut Conference last year.
Granby/Canton 33, CREC co-op 6
Granby/Canton (2-1) 17 9 7 0 —33
CREC co-op (1-2) 0 0 0 6 — 6
G/C: George Horst 38 FG, 9:00
G/C: Luke Maher 24 fumble recovery (Horst kick), 8:42
G/C: William Attianese 22 pass from Will Migliaccio (Horst kick), 2:23
G/C: Connor Richardson 8 pass from Migliaccio (Horst kick), 5:08
G/C: Safety. Saladin Atkinson tackles QB in end zone, 2:09
G/C: Maher 74 fumble recovery (Horst kick), 1:25
C: Elijah Williams 53 pass from Keith Agba (kick wide), 6:09
RUSHING: Granby/Canton – William Attianese 4-9, Khalil Thomas 1-1, Luke Maher 9-70, Robbie Dlubac 2-3, Charles Attianese 1-11; CREC – Keith Agba 10-minus 36, Kemar Wright 4-19, Jose Betancourt 16-41, Ju-Sean Thomas 1-0, team 1-minus 23
PASSING: Granby/Canton – William Migliaccio 11-26-1, 120; CREC – Keith Agna 4-10-1, 77
RECEIVING: Granby/Canton – William Attianese 5-53, Charles Attianese 2-24, Connor Richardson 3-36, Luke Maher 1-7; CREC – Jayden Gist 2-18, Elijah Williams 1-53
RETURNS – Punt: Maher (G) 1-10; Kickoffs: Maher (G) 1-17, Carter Chambers (G) 1-7, Williams (C) 2-23, Thomas (C) 2-10
INTERCEPTIONS: Horst (G) 1-0, Taurin Nesmith (C) 1-0; FUMBLE REC: Maher (G) 3-98; Rakim Murray (C) 1-0; SACKS: J’Vion Serrano (C) 1-9, Saladin Atkinson (G) 1-14, Tristan Sidrane (G) 1-7, John Nolan (G) 1-3