STAMFORD, Conn. – Pete Stokes stepped down Thursday as coach of the Trinity Catholic High School football team, just two weeks after guiding the Crusaders to their first state playoff berth in 19 years.
“Right now, I need to be with own my little ones for a while,’’ Stokes said. “It’s time to be Coach Dad instead of Coach Stokes.”
Stokes compiled an 18-23 record in four years. The Crusaders were 8-3 this fall and reached the Class S tournament, their first visit to states since winning the Class S crown in 1993. The Crusaders got off to a 7-0 start that included their first win over New Canaan since 1984.
Stokes has four children, including 5-year-old twin daughters. “We were sitting at the counter at home, and one of the younger daughters asked if she could play soccer,’’ Stokes said. “I said of course she could play. I just didn’t know she was going to get there. I don’t want to have them be 5 years old one day and then 11 years old and say to myself, ‘Wait, where did that time go?’’’
Stokes told the Trinity football team Tuesday afternoon. “You could have heard a pin drop," he said. “But I told them, 'If you love me just a little bit, you’ll pick up the mantle and keep going forward.' And I know they’ll fight their (butt) off to keep it going.”
Stokes, a 1985 graduate of Trinity, took over for Bryan Fox and went 4-6 in his first year in 2009. He missed about a month of the 2010 season due to a heart attack. Health was not a factor in his decision to resign. Stokes’ mother died last December, and he said in an interview last month it led him to recommit himself to the team.
Stokes previously served as an assistant at Norwalk and Masuk. Assistants Frank Rabassa and Dan Panapada are at the head of the list to replace Stokes. Joe Claps, Stokes’ offensive coordinator, stepped down a few days ago.
The Crusaders will suffer heavy losses due to graduation but have a strong group of underclassmen at the eighth- and ninth-grade levels.
“This is the way a CEO would like to have it set up when he steps aside,’’ Stokes said. “Not that I’m smart enough to be a CEO or anything, but I think we’re in a pretty good position. I want to see Trinity Catholic football do well. It means that much to me.”