NEW CANAAN — Two teams, arch rivals from the same city, looking at two different things.
Norwalk and Brien McMahon entered this weekend’s 11th annual Grip It and Rip It 7-on-7 tournament on totally different ends of the positional spectrum when it came to quarterbacks.
The Bears are returning starter Kyle Gordon, a rising junior who seems to have a stranglehold on the position for this season and next.
The Senators, meanwhile, just bid adieu to three-year starter Chris Druin and are looking at rookie Patrick Coulter, a rising junior, to replace him.
When it comes to those players catching the ball, meanwhile, again the two squads find themselves in different spots.
McMahon has a trio of returning receivers with varsity experience while Norwalk is looking for that next crop of pass catchers to step up.
For McMahon, the No. 1 question coming into the new season, which began with a coaching change as offensive coordinator Jeff Queiroga took over after AJ Albano stepped down, was who was going to play quarterback.
Coulter proved to be the answer.
“He went from a third string guy to first guy,” Queiroga said. “He took the bull by the horns, worked hard and showed promise.”
It was a trial-by-fire moment for him, being thrown into the cauldron of the Grip It and Rip It tournament, but on Saturday, Coulter responded by getting his team a win against Brunswick.
“This is the first time our quarterback has gone against other teams,” Queiroga said. “We can’t replicate that in practice, the speed a varsity defense is going to have.”
Coulter admitted there is a big adjustment to be made, but he’s comfortable in the support the Senators have surrounded him with.
“Honestly, I know I have to step up,” Coulter said. “I have to take this leadership spot, even though I’m not a captain. I wouldn’t say it’s been tough because I’ve got a lot of good guys supporting me. We’re all just trying to settle in and keep a positive attitude.”
Coulter also has the likes of Mike Macari, Troy Bardos, Eric Ferndandez and, possibly, Justin Forde to throw to. Of the 979 yards passing McMahon had last year, 872 of those yards could come potential come back this fall.
Norwalk isn’t that lucky.
Gordon settled in last season, throwing for 1,728 yards and 17 touchdowns. Only 207 of those yards and two touchdowns, though, went to non-seniors.
“I’m not thinking about that right now. It’s in the past,” Gordon said. “We have a young team, a young wide receiver corp. We’re starting over. We just have to stay positive. They’re learning and it’s a learning process.”
Gordon’s veteran guidance though is a key toward their improvement.
“By the end of last year, his sophomore year, he was more like a junior or a senior,” Norwalk offensive coordinator Pat Moffett said. “It’s going to help the younger kids. He understands the whole playbook as far as knowing what to do.”
While the Bears can throw their full faith behind Gordon, Coulter knows McMahon players must earn his trust.
With each passing game this weekend, the Senators — expected to be primarily a running team — are doing just that.
“To be honest, it was kind of a mess,” Macari said. “Que came in and we didn’t know what he was going to do. We didn’t know how our quarterback was going to be. We had a kid transfer to Wilton. (Coulter) was the last man standing, but he’s doing a great job with it. Pat’s coming out here and doing his thing.”
Slowly but surely, it seems, the questions dogging both Norwalk and McMahon are being answered.
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