Football: Grip It and Rip It a success

It might not be three yards in a cloud of dust, but it’s the closest facsimile to football available until fall.

Twenty-seven teams from up and down the East Coast, and one from Canada, gathered in New Canaan Friday, July 10, and Saturday, July 11, for the seventh annual Grip It and Rip It 7 on 7 football tournament.

“The turnout was great – 27 teams,” said Greenwich High Head Coach John Marinelli, instrumental in bringing Grip It and Rip It to New Canaan when he was an assistant coach for the Rams. “The competition was awesome.”

Area teams in the field were the host Rams, St. Luke’s School of New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich, Trinity Catholic of Stamford, Notre Dame of Fairfield, Masuk of Monroe, Harding and Bullard Havens from Bridgeport, New Milford, Brunswick School from Greenwich, New Fairfield, and Fairfield Prep.

The event is a two-hand touch, passing only competition. Each offense gets four plays to gain 20 yards for a first down, and if successful another four plays to get into the end zone. A touchdown scores six points for the offense; an interception or turnover on downs is two points for the defense.

Players don’t wear pads, but do wear helmets for Grip It and Rip. Quarterbacks are not rushed, the offensive and defensive lines are not on the field.

“It’s impossible to simulate football outside of the season,” Marinelli said.

While basketball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer and other sports lend themselves to teams getting together to play as a unit in the off-season, Marinelli said, the rugged nature of football renders actually strapping on the pads pretty much impossible until practice starts in August.

“Football is the only sport you can’t simulate outside the season,” he added.

Friday featured round-robin competition, with every team guaranteed four 25-minute games.

Other tournaments, Marinelli said, only have the top eight to 10 teams advance to the playoffs.

That means a school could pay a $300 to $400 entry fee, play four games and go home.

Only Darien went undefeated (4-0) in pool play. New Canaan and Greenwich went 3-1 Friday.
By the end of Saturday, Grand Street School from Brooklyn had scored 141 points. New Canaan scored 140 points.
By defending the title it won last year, Grand Street School won a repeat trip to Alabama for the national Grip It and Rip It championships, set for July 16-18.

Teams use the 7 on 7 format to practice the timing and specifics in pass routes, and run a variation of the coverage schemes they will use during the fall.

Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rules prohibit coaches from working with their teams during the summer events.

“It’s getting them [players] together, building team camaraderie” Marinelli said.

“Because you can’t coach, you get to see who are the kids you can lean on,” he added, saying coaches can see how each player responds to situation they will see in competition.

The experience can also help build depth.

“If there are no starters I’d still enter a team,” Marinelli said. “It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about getting work, and the kids that need to get the work are those next level varsity kids.”

— Andrew Frattaroli contributed to this story