Panapada named new Trinity Catholic football coach

Whether in the classroom or on the athletic fields, a familial attitude has always been a guiding light at Trinity Catholic over the years. So it should come as no surprise that when Pete Stokes stepped down as the Crusaders’ football coach last month, the school, for the third straight time, would tab a former player and current assistant to oversee the program.

Donny Panapada, a 1993 Trinity graduate and Stokes’ defensive coordinator, was named the new coach Monday morning.

Panapada, who was a three-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines for coach Rich Albonizio, and later his assistant at Greenwich before returning to his alma mater two years ago, was selected from a field of over 20 applicants and five finalists that were interviewed, including four with FCIAC ties.

Panapada started his coaching career at Trinity in 1994 before joining Albonizio at Greenwich in 1997. During six years there, Panapada was the offensive line coach for a team that won one state and two league titles.

The Crusaders are coming off their best season in 19 years. They finished with an 8-3 record and qualified for the Class S Tournament for the first time since 1993, losing in the quarterfinal round to North Branford, 49-28.

Stokes, who stepped down to spend more time with his family, was 18-23 during his five years. Stokes was named the head coach after serving as an assistant to Bryan Fox, another former Trinity player and coach.

Stokes said he lives four houses away from Panapada, and that their wives and children are very close. He also offered a ringing endorsement of his successor.

“We made a great choice,” Stokes said. “Plain and simple. He’s the best. He’s deserving, educated in the game and knows his Xs and Os.”