NEW CANAAN — At long last, there appears to be competitive high school football on the horizon.
New Canaan’s annual Grip It and Rip It 7-on-7 football tournament is on track to be played this week, with 20 teams in action over a two-day span on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 7 and 8.
The tournament, which had been scheduled for mid-July before being postponed, will feature many safety-based changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including mask usage, social distance protocols, hand sanitizer, and smaller roster sizes.
The tournament provides organizers and coaches an opportunity to show what can be done if proper guidelines are in place and followed, while giving the players a bit of normalcy.
“What this is all about is about the kids getting out and having a chance to play, and demonstrating to the athletic community in Connecticut that this can be done and it can be done safely,” New Canaan athletic director Jay Egan said. “That’s our goal. High school kids should normally be able to have these experiences, so our goal is to make it as normal as we possibly can for them.
“We want to give them as many chances to play as we can and we want to do it safely.”
This will be the 14th straight year for the New Canaan tournament. Last year’s competition, won by eventual Class S runner-up Bloomfield, featured 32 teams, including several private and out-of-state schools.
This year’s tournament will feature a smaller field of 20 teams..
That includes seven from the FCIAC: Darien, Greenwich, Ludlowe, Brien McMahon, Staples, Ridgefield and New Canaan; four from the SWC: Masuk, New Fairfield, Stratford and Bunnell; four from the CCC: Southington, Hall, Hartford and Newington; along with Harding of the SCC, and Valley Regional of the Pequot League.
Rye, Shenendehowa, and Happauge of New York round out the field.
Competition will be divided into four groups, with morning (9-11:20 a.m.) and afternoon (4 to 6:20 p.m.) sessions. Each session will feature one group on Dunning Field and another on the Water Tower located next to the tennis courts.
New Canaan’s coaches, including defensive coordinator Chris Silvestri, the tournament director, and Rams’ head coach Lou Marinelli, helped put a proposal together and submitted it to several local entities, including the fields committee and the director of health, according to Egan.
“Our coaches put together a proposal that is basically centered on health and safety with respect to all participants,” Egan said. “Everyone reviewed what they’re proposing and is comfortable that it can be done safely as far as COVID procedures and protocols.”
Rosters are limited to 15 players each, with three coaches per team. The smaller rosters will limit the number of people on the field at any one time. Coaches will be required to wear masks, and players will wear helmets.
Each team is required to bring its own hand sanitizer and water, as the usual water stations will not be available. Teams are also responsible for cleaning their sideline areas.
In addition, a health assessment of each team will be held each day, and athletes and coaches will answer COVID-related questions, such as verifying that they haven’t traveled to states on Connecticut’s quarantine list in the past 14 days.
Right now, the plan doesn’t include spectators, but Egan said that’s being worked on and could change.
With safety protocols in place, Egan is confident New Canaan will be able to provide a great experience for the players.
“All these things are things to look forward to and bring a little normalcy back,” Egan said. “Life is upside down for all of us, and especially for kids who are going to be high school seniors and juniors. These are young people who socialize as a course of what they do and everything has changed for them, and it’s difficult.
“So we want to give our kids a football experience prior to the season so they can get some reps.”
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