STAMFORD, Conn. – Just like his predecessor, new Trinity Catholic High School football coach Donny Panapada bleeds green and gold. Now, he will try to continue the momentum established under former coach Pete Stokes.
Panapada, a former assistant under Stokes, was named the team’s football coach Monday. He takes over a team that went 8-3 last year and reached the Class S tournament. It was Trinity’s best season since 1993.
“I love this place,’’ Panapada said. “If there’s any job I ever wanted, it would be here. It’s a special place.”
He knows the Trinity landscape: Panapada played under current Greenwich High coach Rich Albonizio at Trinity from 1989 to 1992, where he was a three-year starter and a two-time selection to the all-Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference first team. He starred on the offensive and defensive lines for the Crusaders.
He was part of Albonizio’s staff at Trinity from 1994 to 1996 and moved with him to Greenwich from 1997 to 2002. Stokes took him to Trinity when he replaced Bryan Fox in 2010. Panapada has been the defensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the Crusaders the past two years.
“I think he’s a great choice,’’ Stokes said. “I know he’s going to be fire and brimstone. That’s all you can expect. He’s a no-nonsense guy. I’m happy he’s the one who will take over.”
Tradition plays a key part at Trinity, which last won a state championship in 1993. Panapada said one of his objectives is to re-establish the foundation of the Crusaders' historical success.
“We have a strong tradition that goes back many years,’’ he said. “My goal is to bring it back to what it was years ago. Bring back some alumni and get them involved. We had a great year last year, but we need to build off of that. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. It’s going to take some time. But the idea is to get back to being Catholic football, which is a great tradition.”
The Crusaders will have trouble duplicating last year’s success in 2013 as it loses a strong senior class.
“We have some underclassmen that played a lot of snaps for us,’’ Panapada said. “My goals are more long term than just next year. Our numbers need to improve. But I like what we have going into next season.”
A new offensive coordinator is needed as well. Former assistant Joe Claps also resigned at the end of last season. Frank Rabassa, the co-defensive coordinator, is expected to remain.
Panapada’s blueprint will look a lot like the plan Stokes put in place during his three years as the team’s head coach.
“A lot of things will stay the same,’’ Panapada said. “Some things will change. I’m big on discipline and accountability. I think that builds mental toughness, and mental toughness wins football games. I’m a stickler for that type of stuff.”