NEW CANAAN — While ultimately scores and champions are inconsequential in 7-on-7 play, teams around the state still exercise every available outlet to groom themselves for the fall ahead.
Some are installing new systems, some trying to replace heralded stars and some just refining the games of established starters.
Either way, the Grip It and Rip It competition at New Canaan High School this past weekend provided teams with a glimpse of competition and an idea of where to improve for the upcoming season.
FINE TUNING AT PREP
Because of an injury to starter Will Lucas a season ago, then-sophomore quarterback JP Iaropoli got four starts for the Jesuits.
Now, as a rising-junior, Iaropoli feels that his 2017 season — where he threw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions — has laid the foundation for a breakout year.
“It’s a good head start on the other kids in my class,” Iaropoli said. “I got some experience, know what it’s like to play with the big boys and I think we got a good team this year. Things are looking bright.”
Rising-senior receiver Finn Duran is one of the returning players that saw what Iaropoli had to offer last season, and already sees his progress in Year 2.
“His confidence has definitely grown,” Duran said. “He throws the ball very well, he trusts his receivers a lot, he trusts well make the plays and help him out. He’s doing really well.”
If nothing else, Iaropoli can sleep soundly knowing he has the full faith of his supporting cast behind him.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” Duran said. “I know he’s going to do great.”
STARTING OVER IN TRUMBULL
While 2018 will be rising-senior Colton Nicholas’ second year as the starting quarterback, it will be the first under new coach Marce Petroccio, who left the Staples program to take over for Bob Maffei.
“It’s huge,” Nicholas said of maximizing each repetition in passing leagues. “You’re just doing passing plays, so you’re just focusing in on one aspect of the game. You get that every rep, it’s important to see different competition and try different guys at receiver and see what’s working.”
For the veteran Petroccio, any time his team can hit the field is a good time for him in order to install his offense — regardless if they’re in full pads.
“For us, it’s a process,” Petroccio said. “I think we got better each game we played in. We kind of ran out of bodies a little at the end, but I think it’s great for us. Anytime we can do football, no matter what form of football it is, we’ll take it and these kids have done a great job.”
BIG SHOES TO FILL AT ST. JOSEPH
Expectations are high for a second-straight Class S title at St. Joseph, as well they should be.
Rising-senior quarterback and Maryland-commit David Summers headlines a group that should be the early favorites in Class S.
Still, the Cadets will still have to replace the production of graduated All-State receiver Jared Mallozzi.
“I have three starting receivers coming back from last year,” Summers said. “We were great on offense last year and they were a big part of it, so having those guys coming back and having the same connection really helps things move along quickly.”
One of those returnees is rising-senior Jesse Bike, who figures to play a bigger role with the departure of Mallozzi. For him, the 7-on-7 competitions are vital in that growth.
“It’s just making us so much better,” Bike said. “We do all this to get better and win another state championship.”