NEW CANAAN -- When Brian Clawson was scanning the Internet for another 7 on 7 passing camp to attend, the second-year coach from Shenendehowa High School came across the New Canaan Grip It & Rip It Championships.
Clawson was initially familiar with New Canaan only because it had to pull out of an event last year the team from the Saratoga, N.Y., area was participating in.
"We were looking to get the best competition from other areas," said Clawson.
"We heard New Canaan had an outstanding program under Lou Marinelli. We were willing to drive the three hours and stay overnight."
The trip proved fruitful after Shenendehowa defeated Rye in last Saturday's final game of the two-day, 36-team event.
"This is a first-class operation down here," said Clawson, whose team won a tournament in West Point, N.Y., last month. "This is the best 7 on 7 on the east coast. We're fortunate we have the resources to come here."
Now in its six year, Grip It & Rip It again earned rave reviews from players and coaches for the overall quality of play, organization and superior facilities.
"It's a good experience for these guys," said John Murphy, who was one of the biggest offseason newsmakers after leaving Masuk, where he won three state titles, to take over at unheralded New Milford. "I've been here since the beginning, but these guys have never done a big tournament like this. To see this big production and play good teams is a good thing for our guys."
In an offseason in which coaching changes seemingly occurred on a daily basis, Murphy and Jack Cochran caused the greatest stirs. Cochran, noted for both his success -- he has won eight state titles in 14 appearances at three schools -- and attracting controversy like lint -- the CIAC's score management rule is more commonly referred to as the Cochran Rule -- was named the coach last month at Warren Harding, which last had a winning season 17 years ago.
Harding participated at Grip It & Rip It, demonstrating some raw talent that Cochran will no doubt develop.
"They're young and learning," Cochran said. "We have three or four freshmen out there. The biggest thing is they are not at home, they are not in the streets, they are doing something positive."
Cochran said Harding is currently in better shape than the Bloomfield program he first rebuilt.
"We have a lot more people in Bridgeport helping me support the team," Cochran said. "I feel good. They understand what pride is and what hard work is. This event is beautiful. You have 36 teams out here, on beautiful fields. This is what athletics is all about."
The Crusaders elected to forego spring football and instead take the extra week of practice in the fall. This was the team's first 7 on 7 event.
"I'm happy with the first two games," Panapada said last Friday afternoon. "We're competing. We have a lot of young kids here. You have teams out there with wristbands going no-huddle. We get to see what we've got and get the kids out here."
One of the best games last Saturday was a triple overtime contest between Stamford and New Canaan. The Rams won on a spectacular diving catch by Jack Gilio, who had an outstanding day.
"We're doing really well," Gilio said.
"We've been passing a lot this summer. This really helps so much. What it really does is make us closer as a team, like a family. And I love this 7 on 7 because it is on our home turf and we have our fans and our music. It's fun."
Grip It & Rip It also stands out because teams are guaranteed at least six games -- four in pool play on Friday and then all schools take part in a double-elimination tournament on Saturday.
New Canaan lasted the longest of all Connecticut entrants, reaching the losers' bracket final before falling to Ketcham, N.Y.
The trip to New Canaan will soon seem like a brief excursion for Shenendehowa.
As the winner, it receives an automatic bid to the National Select 7 on 7 Championships in Hoover, Ala.