Grip It & Rip It Returns Tomorrow With Reduced Field And 7 FCIAC Schools

Quarterback Drew Pyne made one of his first appearances for New Canaan at last year’s Grip It & Rip It Tournament. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The 10th anniversary of New Canaan’s Grip It & Rip It, which has become the region’s biggest 7 on 7 tournament, will have a cozy feel to it. Because of work being done to install turf on many of the high school’s side fields, and with only Dunning Stadium available, there will be just 16 teams, half the number from a year ago.

“It makes it a little more quaint, makes it a little more homey,” said John Marinelli, the Greenwich head coach and former New Canaan assistant who still runs the event. “It has always been about reps and promoting the game. It’s just about getting kids in situations they’re not used to being in. This is the most real way to simulate football outside of the regular season. Getting everybody together, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

While critics denounce 7 on 7 because games do not include linemen, it has continued to soar in popularity during the offseason, with most schools playing indoors in the winter. It has become part of the summer circuit, along with camps hosted by many college teams.

Pool play begins tomorrow, with games starting at 1:30 and running until just after 8 p.m., followed by the double-elimination playoffs on Saturday. For area football fans, it is a chance to get a first look at some of the quarterbacks, receivers and defensive secondary players from seven FCIAC schools that will be participating: Darien, Fairfield Ludlowe, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, St. Joseph and Stamford.

There will be 12 teams from the state in all. Given the constraints, Marinelli said there was preference given to schools that have participated the longest. Though there will be two state champions and three finalists participating, Marinelli said getting a head start on scouting is not a priority.

“At the end of the day it’s 7 on 7,” Marinelli said. “You try not to put too much on it. Whether we win or lose it doesn’t make a difference, but it does help the kids come together and bond together, and what Grip It and Rip it has done is create this community in the tri-state area.”

The event had its largest field four years ago, with 40 schools. Marinelli said he hopes that number might be surpassed next year after the field renovations.

“It could be 64 teams, make it back to what it was and maybe bigger than it ever has been,” Marinelli said. “Put on an event like this so hopefully kids can adapt and grow and socialize and it’s so much more.”