Grip It & Rip It draws 40 teams

If you’re a high school football fan and enjoy watching teams score a lot of points with the passing game, then New Canaan High School is exactly the place for you on Saturday.

Hosted by the New Canaan High School football team, the Grip It & Rip It 7 on 7 camp commenced Friday with 40 teams from Connecticut, New York and even Canada, playing on four fields. The teams were divided into four divisions and the tournament began Friday afternoon, with each squad playing four games in pool play for seeding. Saturday, all the teams will complete in a double-elimination playoff. So each team competing gets to play six games during a two-day span. Now that’s a great way to get some much-needed practice in prior to training camp.

Brunswick School receivers get set at the line of scrimmage during Friday's Grip & Rip competition at New Canaan High School. Brunswick is making its first appearance in the tournament.

Brunswick School receivers get set at the line of scrimmage during Friday’s Grip & Rip competition at New Canaan High School. Brunswick is making its first appearance in the tournament.

“There’s lacrosse all summer, baseball all summer, even rugby all summer, but football had nothing,” Greenwich High School coach Rich Albonizio said. “Now there is something and I love it for that reason.”

Fairfield Prep assistant coach Keith Hellstern liked watching his squad have fun Friday, but in a highly competitive atmosphere.

“Part of what sports teaches our kids is that they must challenge themselves, work through adversity and work together and this competition is a fun way to reinforce those things.”

Of the 40 teams competing in Grip It & Rip It, 30 are from Connecticut and 13 represent the FCIAC. Games, which are 25 minutes long, are played on a 40-yard field and teams need to gain 20 yards for a first down. The winner of the tournament, which serves as the Select 7 on 7 Northeast Qualifier, receives a berth into the National Championships in Hoover, Ala., next week.

Walking to each field to check out the action, it was impressive to see how passing game in high school football has evolved. Most of the quarterbacks I watched were efficient at making all of the throws and had sold rapport with their recievers, who made some eye-opening catches.

Cheshire Academy looks to be one of the teams to beat after going 4-0 during Friday’s pool play. Morgan and Southington were the other teams from Connecticut to finish pool play at 4-0. Iona Prep, Stepinac, Grand Street from Brooklyn, which looked exceptionally strong and Middletown were the squads from New York that finished 4-0 on Friday.

New Canaan and Newtown, both of which are breaking in new starting quarterbacks went 3-1, as did Trinity Catholic and Fairfield Warde.

“Overall, we are happy with 3-1 and we saw a lot of good things out there,” Trinity Catholic coach Don Panapada said. “We have a minimum of six games here, which is great. We are here to get better and better and I’m happy with what I saw from our team today.”

Greenwich, St. Luke’s, Darien, Danbury, Brien McMahon and St. Joseph each went 2-2 in Friday’s pool play. Though Grip It & Rip It is a passing camp, it also gives defensive backs an opportunity to get their skills in shape for the fall season.

“Passing is a huge part of the game right now, so defensively, it’s important for us to get our coverages down,” said New Canaan’s Alex LaPolice, who is vying for the starting quarterback job and will see plenty of time in the secondary. “Seeing route combinations, communication – those are the important things this camp helps us with.”

Danbury coach Mike Ecke, who will soon begin his first season at the helm, was impressed with the talent he saw at Grip It & Rip It.

“I came down here a couple of years ago with Cheshire, so I knew it was going to be very well run,” Ecke said. “The competition is always great and for us, it’s a big opportunity to get better and our kids are getting better.”

I’ll be at the tournament on Saturday for an article I’m going to write for Hearst Connecticut Media Group publications and I look forward to seeing some great competition.



Dave Fierro