A long list of high school football teams in the state will start their respective seasons this fall with a different quarterback from last season under center, and the group of first-year varsity signal callers don't have too much time to prepare for their new role. That's when an event like the Grip It & Rip It 7 on 7 camp comes in handy.
Last Friday and Saturday served as a learning experience for numerous quarterbacks who visited New Canaan High School to compete in the seventh annual event, including Darien's Timmy Graham and Hudson Hammill.
Hosted by the New Canaan football team, Grip It & Rip It included 40 teams from Connecticut, New York and even Canada, playing on four fields. Each team competed in four 25-minute games for pool play on Friday, then played in a double-elimination playoff on Saturday. By mid-afternoon, just four teams remained in contention for the championship.
Undefeated Grand Street Campus from Brooklyn, N.Y., won the tournament, defeating Archbishop Stepinac from White Plains, N.Y., 30-12, in the championship game. After early losses to Newtown and Southington, the Blue Wave group bounced back with a 32-26 victory over East Haven and 49-8 trouncing of Masuk on Friday. In the double-elimination tournament, Darien eventually fell alongside a surprising Fairfield Warde team in the final six.
Blue Wave coach Rob Trifone said his rising junior Graham is slated as the starter, with junior Hamill vying for time. Darien had one of the most prolific offenses in the state last season with senior Silas Wyper under center.
"Silas Wyper developed as a quarterback because of events like this 7 on 7 camp," said Trifone, whose squad finished among the top six in the tournament. "This teaches you how to read defenses and helps you learn how to compete. I think the teams that don't do this struggle with the timing early on. A 7 on 7 is all about developing a quarterback's timing with his receivers."
New Canaan, which lost to Stepinac in the semifinals, is also one of the squads that will begin the 2014 season with a different look under center. Alex LoPolice, a rising senior and Mike Collins (junior), took the snaps for the Rams at Grip It & Rip It and both looked sharp.
"We play a spread offense, so this event gets us in sync," said LaPolice, who played a key role in New Canaan's Class L final win over Darien as a receiver, kick returner and cornerback. "This will help get us rolling going into training camp."
"This coming season we have a lot of holes to fill since we graduated 30 seniors," Collins said. "But we have the same goals and the same mentality as last season. This 7 on 7 competition is a great help to me as far as helping me go through my reads."
New Canaan assistant coach John Marinelli, who helped direct Grip It & Rip It, has enjoyed watching the event evolve since its inception in 2008.
"It was a fun two days and we love hosting it," Marinelli said. "Hopefully, we'll have even more teams in the future. Forty teams came here and I think they all left feeling they improved."
Defending Class M champion St. Joseph is looking to sophomore quarterback Kevin Trefz to fill the void left by the graduation of Jordan Vazzano.
"Kevin is learning our offense, so every game in this tournament is a new experience for him," St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. "This camp is big for him and our receivers, because we also have three new receivers. I think overall, it's great for high school football. These guys do a great job of getting the teams together."
"We are more of a running team now and I am more of a running quarterback, but this camp definitely helps me develop my skills," Nagy said.
"Our team is a 70/30 run-pass team, we're not a run-and-shoot team," Westhill coach Frank Marcucio said. "But this is good for our defensive backs and great for our quarterbacks and receivers. It's a great evaluation tool for our coaches."