Optimism is in as Donny Panapada takes over Trinity Catholic football
Updated 10:55 pm, Tuesday, August 20, 2013
STAMFORD -- In the preseason, the glass is always half full in the world of FCIAC high school football.
There are no major injuries. There are no referee whistles to perturb the head coach.
And when a new FCIAC football head coach starts his first season, the glass can move to two-thirds full.
There is gold optimism and no green envy at Trinity Catholic High School where Donny Panapada begins his journey as Crusaders' head football coach.
Veteran coach Pete Stokes left after a 2012 campaign of 8-3 capped by a Class S quarterfinal round road loss (49-28) to eventual Class S runnerup North Branford.
How has the team been during off-season conditioning and these early days of practice -- you skipped spring practice -- and speak to the philosophy you've instilled?: "Our first message is to compete. I thought we did that during the 7-on-7 tourney at New Canaan and the Lyman Challenge in Berlin. You compete and you get better," Panapada said. "We are aware of the success from last season. But we're dealing with a whole new group. My focus is on establishing a program that's big on discipline and accountability. If you acco mplish that, you get a team that has mental toughness. That's how you win football games.
"One of our mottos is `Win the day.' That means winning in the classroom, winning in the weight room, win on the field, win in life. That's how you develop a culture in your program."
What is the best thing about being a head coach?: "The best thing is being in control of everything," Panapada said. "It's knowing that the program depends on what I say and what I do. The difference between being an assistant and being the head coach is when you're an assistant you suggest ideas or solutions. As the head coach, you have to make the decisions."
How are things meshing with the staff of assistant coaches?: "We have four new coaches on the staff. It's a good mix of youth and experience. The young coaches bring the energy. The veteran coaches bring the knowledge," said Panapada, a 1993 Trinity Catholic High graduate who spent three seasons on the Trinity Catholic staff followed by six seasons on the Greenwich High football staff before returning the past three years as the Crusaders' defensive coordinator. "Bob Robustelli, Frank Rabassa, Aland Joseph, Ryan Durkin, Eric Stephens, Sean Zaro and Teggy Steele are doing a great job. They're really putting in the time after practice."
How is the quarterback situation shaping up thus far?: "There are just nine seniors on the entire roster and 220 boys enrolled at Trinity Catholic but our general roster numbers -- both varsity and freshman -- are good thus far. But we still have to replace Danny O'Leary at quarterback," Panapada said. "The candidates we have are Connor Amann, Tom Costigan along with a sophomore Johnny Somers. It will be an interesting battle."
Much of last season's success revolved around running backs Shaquan Howsie and Shawn Brown. With both graduated, how does the backfield stack up this year?: "The top candidates at running back are Randy Polonia and Justin Przypek," Panapada said. "But we have senior playmakers Neno Merritt and Matt Christensen back at wide receiver."