NEW CANAAN — The battle rages on.
There’s little that can be solved in Darien’s quarterback competition between rising-junior Peter Graham and rising-senior Cooper Hancock until pads come on in live scrimmages, but this weekend’s Grip It and Rip It 7-on-7 competition at New Canaan High School served as another step in the development of both quarterbacks.
“We’ve been working since the winter, lifting and we’ve had passing leagues every single week since January,” Graham said. “We try to take everything we can away from that. These tournaments are super competitive, like the one we had last week up in Madison we went 9-0 and won, so we try to take everything away from it and try to get better and better.”
Everyone around the program has said the competition has been healthy for both hopeful-starters, each of which is using the sessions to develop a rapport with the receiving corps at Darien.
“This is definitely different, but it also gives us a chance to read coverages and stuff,” Hancock said. “It gives us that aspect, but it’s definitely not football, once there’s a line out there it’s a different game. (Passing leagues) help a lot with the connection we have with the receivers, knowing when they’re going to break, so it helps out.”
Tyler Herget figures to be the head of that receiving group, and doesn’t think the cycling of quarterbacks is having a negative affect on his position.
“They’re both really pushing each other to the max, because they both want the starting job,” Herget said. “They’re making each other better in a way, which is helping us receivers out. They’re both improving very much and it’s helping us get a feel for each of them.”
Defensively, Darien is much less worried about who is lining up at quarterback, and more so about acclimating new faces and learning the terminology.
Connor Fay will begin his third year at middle linebacker in 2018, and while his M.O. is physicality, he still finds the non-contact leagues useful for the fall.
“It’s important,” Fay said. “We’re doing a lot of work and staying on the same page, getting our reads. If we’re all on the same page we’ll be fine, but it is important to see those things and make the adjustments we have to.”
Darien will have a largely new cast in the secondary and linebacker levels, but Fay—who has been a part of two state champion teams in his career — likes what he sees out of this year’s group.
“They’re as good as they can be right now,” Fay said. “Obviously, we have a lot of development and work to do; it’s early but we have the potential and the personnel to be just as good, if not better, on those levels, which has been a vital part of our unit for a long time. I have no worries that if we put the time and effort in, we’ll have no let down at all.”
Darien eventually fell 30-15 in the quarterfinals against host school and rival New Canaan, but the message that the Blue Wave want to send is that while the FCIAC may be as strong as it’s been in recent memory, don’t forget about Darien.
“We really like to show to the state that we’ve reloaded again,” Graham said. “Just like the past three years where we’ve been No. 1 in the state and state champions.”