The last time Newtown and Greenwich played real football games was in the 2019 CIAC Class LL Tournament.
Greenwich was bounced by Darien in the quarterfinals with Newtown of course winning the state championship in dramatic fashion over Darien.
Friday afternoon, the two teams with state title aspirations again in 2021, faced off in the opening game on Water Tower 1 Field.
Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said this Grip it and Rip it felt different than in years past.
“The kids had pregame jitters before the game. There were a lot of nervous butterflies out here,” Morello said. “Normally at these events you get here if you can, but today there was some real energy before the games. It is different than in years past. Some of the players are pressing a little bit because they feel like they have to show everything they have in one play or one game. It’s all about settling down and going back to basics and focusing on your assignments.”
Newtown’s Bobby Pattison said he was just happy seeing kids playing any version of football in the state.
“It has been a long year and the kids are just excited to be out here competing. We are seeing some teams out here that are really good and that’s what we want for our guys,” Pattison said. “This is not real football but it’s good reps at the same time. There are teams here that predominantly run the ball first and you don’t get to see what they can really do. The competition is great and it’s a good event for our kids to get some competition and reps.“
Both coaches said the biggest thing they were looking for at Grip It and Rip It was players in live competition.
“Number one, we want to see these guys go out an compete,” Morello said. “It’s been so long since they have been able to get after each other and go against a top-tier opponent in any capacity. Just seeing these guys come out here and get aligned properly, get their assignments down right and try to play assignment-free football is nice.”
Pattison added he was looking to see which players made the biggest gains in the time away from the field.
“It’s nice to see kids that have been working hard in the offseason in the weight room coming out here bigger, stronger and faster. Then to see that translate on the field is good,” Pattison said. “Every coach here has kids who worked really hard and are seeing them mature and grow up. Most teams in Connecticut didn’t play. Your sophomores who are now seniors, a lot of those kids were JV guys and they have to figure it out quick.”