Northeast 7-on-7 football tourney provides a taste of normal

PEABODY — Every coach of the 30 football programs that showed up to the Northeast 7v7 East regional tournament Saturday morning at Bishop Fenwick would be quick to say the event isn’t real football in their assessment of the day — but that didn’t stop many of them from admitting just how great it felt to watch their skill players in a competitive atmosphere.

And with the sun shining over the all-day tourney, from pool play until the championship game, those players made sure to get all they could out of it after missing out on the normal summer lead-up to the season amid the pandemic.

Senior BB&N quarterback Shane Hanafin led that group with his brother Ronan as the two put on a clinic with the rest of the Knights, grinding their way through tough matchups to a 28-25 win over Marblehead in the final for the tourney crown.

“It was great for us after not having a season last year to come out here and get back in the 7-on-7 swing — I know we all missed that,” Shane Hanafin said. “This was the first time we’ve really been back together, it was great to come out and compete with everybody.”

The Knights were far from the only players that impressed on the day, which lasted from 10 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m.

Marblehead quarterback Josh Robertson played well to help get the Magicians to the title game, as did Taunton quarterback Jake Leonard in a run to the semifinals. Andover’s junior class got it to the semifinals as well, and players from Brockton, Reading, Swampscott and Needham highlighted the rest of the standout performances.

For those programs, they were just pleased to have a normal offseason event that allowed their players to get into the groove of building relationships and getting into football mode.

“I’m just proud of them for taking time out of the day to compete,” said Taunton head coach Brad Sidwell. “They battled hard and we ended up playing six games and it was great. It was fun for our kids.”

“I just like seeing the guys, our team and other teams, the camaraderie you build,” added KIPP Academy head coach Jim Rabbitt, whose program competed in the event for the first time. “Bonding starts taking place, kicks off the football season the right way.”

Entering a tournament as a team in any offseason also allows for coaches — even when watching 7-on-7 — to get an idea of some things they can focus on once training comes around.

“It just helps you see who’s got some awareness on the field, who’s competitive,” said Reading head coach John Fiore, who liked what he saw from a young group around quarterback James Murphy. “Truthfully, you get a look at guys that might need to move a position.”

Safe to say coaches and players got that look and more.

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