MADISON—There are no pads, no tackling and no linesmen in the Shoreline Football 7 vs. 7 Grip it and Rip It tournament.
While it isn’t real football, what is real is the fun that players and coaches said they had in the two-day event. Darien quarterback Peter Graham certainly had his share.
On Saturday, Graham had four touchdown passes to lead Darien to a 44-6 win over Notre Dame-West Haven in the championship game of the fourth annual double-elimination tournament at Hand. It was the second straight championship for the Blue Wave who came out of the winners bracket to secure the title.
“Everyone on our team loves this Grip it and Rip it tournament,” Graham said. “It’s a great way to start preparing for next season. It’s a lot of fun and it’s great for team building, bonding and uniting the team.
“It’s great way to start working on your rhythm. You get your receivers out there and you build reps. They only allow safeties and linebackers on defense and it’s a great way for them to get reps too. Our team gets to do it again in two weeks (July 12-13) when New Canaan hosts its Grip it and Rip it tournament.”
Eleven years ago, New Canaan hosted the first Football 7 vs. 7 Grip it and Rip it tournament. When Hand football coach Dave Mastroianni was exposed to the event, he liked it so much he decided to host his own version of the tournament.
“This event provides a great time to get your team together and have them compete with other teams from around the state,” Mastroianni said. “It’s a chance to evaluate what you have and also get them to compete with other teams. It’s competitive but it’s also fun.
“Each team has 15-20 players with quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, linebackers and secondary players. They play games and every player gets their reps and they are meaningful reps. For some teams it comes down to player availability with vacations and other commitments impacting their decision to come here. But this has become a popular event and slots fill up quick.”
There were 16 teams representing five leagues that competed. Leagues represented were the FCIAC, ECC, SWC, CCC and SCC.
The Middletown football team advanced to the losers bracket quarterfinals and coach Sal Morello and quarterback Chris Danas couldn’t have been happier with their experience.
“We didn’t have spring football, so this was a great way for us to see our kids work together and work things out,” Middletown coach Sal Morello said. “We played eight games in the two days we were here and that allowed us to get in a lot of reps. It allowed our quarterbacks and receivers to work on their timing and our defensive backs to work on their communication.”
For Danas, the event was a learning experience.
“We’re going to the Wesleyan football camp in two weeks,” Danas said. “But this camp exposes you to different high-level teams from around the state. You see a lot of different coverages and it allows you to work on your timing. You’re getting strong competition every game and that only makes you better.”
ND-WH goes deep
Notre Dame-West Haven quarterback Jack Zilinsky had three towndown passes in a 28-6 win over Greenwich in the losers bracket final and he threw the lone touchdown in the loss to Darien in the final.
“This event provides a great opportunity for all the quarterbacks because it’s good competition at a high level,” Zilinsky said. “You can lift weights all the time but it’s this kind of competition we all really want to experience. We played six games and that helps you prepare as a team.”
Notre Dame coach Joe DeCaprio was impressed with the event.
“We know it’s not real football, but it gives us the opportuity to compete,” DeCaprio said. “Dave (Mastroianni) does a great job organzing this event. He brings in great teams and it gets intense here with that level of competition. It gives all the coaches an opportunity to evaluate their kids.”