Canton drops heartbreaker, loses Milk Jug

GRANBY — Rain, wind, sleet, snow, a momentum switch, and a rushing milestone were all in play as the Granby Memorial Bears edged the Canton Warriors, 21-19, to take home the Milk Jug on the Thanksgiving Eve.

Canton came out strong, eschewing Granby’s first drive attempt, and then marching downfield, capping their drive with a 14-yard touchdown run by Cam Daley with 7:21 left in the first quarter.

Late in the second quarter, it was Daley with another big catch, followed by a 25-yard catch by tight end Jake Wood in the end zone to make it 13-0, Warriors with 2:21 to go in the first half. But, the extra point was blocked by Granby.

On the next drive, Granby got a great reception by co-captain Ian Downey, followed by a big run by sophomore Dominic Pagano, and the Bears got into the red zone with a minute to go. A 4-yard run by Pagano as time expired cut the Canton lead to 13-7 at halftime.

The momentum clearly swung in Granby’s favor after the intermission, along with coach Rich Gadoury’s pep talk.

Gadoury said he told his team, in the locker room, to go back to what they know.

“We had to get to our game plan going,” he said. “We knew we could run the ball today. We believed that we could run the ball today. The big thing was getting that touchdown as time expired.” The coach also kept his team “frosty” for the second half.

“I told them,’They’re walking inside at the half, and we’re staying outside,’” Gadoury said. “I told them ‘You’re going to deal with this weather, get that ball back, and we’re going to go up 14-13.”

As the rain turned briefly to snow, and then the precipitation stopped altogether, the coach’s prediction came true.

On Granby’s first possession of the second half, Pagano ripped a 34-yard run, and followed it with a 9-yard touchdown run, and the Bears took their first lead with 7:49 to go in the third.

Not willing to let Granby take the game from them easily, Canton responded with their own impressive drive, capped by a Cam Daley 3-yard touchdown run to make it 19-14. A two-point conversion run attempt by Daley was snuffed out by Granby. It looked like Canton was going to keep the momentum in their favor, as Daley intercepted a pass by Granby’s Curtis Field just a few plays later, but the Warriors’ drive quickly stalled, including a failed punt attempt.

Granby’s subsequent drive ended in (you guessed it) another touchdown by Pagano – this time an 11-yard scamper, putting the Bears up 21-19, with 8:48 in the game.

But, Pagano wasn’t done, until he intercepted a pass from Canton’s Eric Scott to halt the next Warrior’s drive. Canton got the ball back once more, but Scott couldn’t connect with his receivers on several attempts from mid-field, and Granby held on for the win.

Pagano’s 130-yard performance etched his place in Bear’s history as the first 1,000-yard rusher Granby Memorial has had, ever…and he’s only a sophomore.

“He just became a true varsity player,” Gadoury said. “He has two years of football in Granby ahead of him, and it’s going to be a great two years.”

Gadoury said his team simply overcame some of its early mistakes, and played some smashmouth football.

Taking the Milk Jug back (Granby won in year one of the recently-created rivalry, and Canton took it home last year) was even sweeter that way.

“I love having it home, where it belongs,” Gadoury said.

Canton coach Paul Philippon said his team just didn’t play well, especially in the second half.

“We weren’t real balanced, and we didn’t make any stops on defense,” he said. “We got outplayed.”

“I told my team that a bad game doesn’t erase everything that they’ve done,” he said. “They had a great year, and back-to-back great years. They played their hearts out. They didn’t play their best game – Granby certainly outplayed us. Part of playing is losing and dealing, so we’ll deal with it.”

“Canton had a great year,” Gadoury said, adding that he reveres Philippon as one of the best coaches in the league.

Story and photos by Steve Smith

For more photos from Canton’s season finale, click HERE!

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