FOOTBALL: Stamford uses Grip it and Rip it as learning experience

A couple hours after the Stamford football team had been eliminated in the Grip it and Rip it passing tournament at New Canaan High School, several of the players and coaches were still in the bleachers watching the final eight teams compete.

It was a Saturday afternoon and a group of teenage boys certainly could have found somewhere else to be after playing in six games during the day Friday and Saturday morning, but the Black Knights chose to stay and watch.

“I like watching the quarterbacks from other teams,” Stamford junior quarterback Isaiah Johnson said. “I can learn so much just by watching them when we are not playing. There are a lot of good quarterbacks out here and I can pick things up from all of them.”

Come the fall, Johnson will be competing for the Stamford starting quarterback job against senior Terry Forrester.

The two quarterbacks shared the signal-calling duties over the weekend with each one getting plenty of throwing repetitions.

Saturday afternoon, the pair were just trying to soak in as much as they could.

Jamar Greene is not allowed to actively coach at the tournament per CIAC rules, but was intently watching every down his team played. He was still there watching other teams after his team was done, saying there is a lot to take away from the successful programs from Connecticut and New York in the tournament.

He said the tournament is not about raising a trophy, but more about getting guys on the field in live action two months prior to the season.

“We use this as a team-building experience. We have been doing 7-on-7 out of Chelsea Piers and we went to Madison and did the one at Daniel Hand,” Greene said. “You don’t win or lose games in July, but it’s good to get timing down with quarterbacks, receivers and get into the flow of things.”

This is the fifth year Stamford has competed at Grip it and Rip it at New Canaan.

Stamford will bring a young team back this fall, but one with players who saw varsity time as underclassmen.

Johnson said the key in the summer is getting everyone on the same page and playing as a team.

“We need to get better as a team. Right now, not everyone is familiar with the routes and everything. We need to play as a team and we don’t need to get down on each other. We need to stick together,” Johnson said. “Coming out here and seeing different competition and seeing what we can do against other teams helps so much when we go into the season. Getting to throw to guys with the defense on them, makes us all better.”

Greene did not want to reveal too much, but said the team will be taking a slightly different approach on offense next season and the 7-on-7 is the perfect place to try new ideas against live defenders.

“We are putting in some new things on offense and this is a good opportunity to incorporate different things and experiment a little,” Greene said. “This is a great opportunity over the summer to get our guys out and get them thinking football because in eight weeks, we have a game.”

Greene said it is not only offensive players who benefit from the 7-on-7, the defensive backs and linebackers also gain valuable time on the field.

“The DBs start to learn tendencies,” Greene said. “It is all about the communication and if teams are switching. ‘In, in, in, I got out’ communicating and knowing not only where you are supposed to be but where the other guy is supposed to be, too. Defensively we are trying some new things. This gives us an opportunity to work on our coverages and guys communicating in live situations.”

Whether Stamford can translate the summer learning session into wins in the fall remains to be seen but sitting and watching the best compete for an afternoon cannot hurt.

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

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