Stamford High football hires Donny Panapada as coach

Donny Panapada grew up a block from Stamford High and currently lives less than two miles away from the school where his two oldest daughters attend.

Add the geography, family connections and history with the city to the fact that Panapada had been itching to get back into coaching and it all adds up to Panapada being named the head football coach at Stamford.

“I am absolutely excited about the opportunity,” Panapada said. “This is a historic program. Back in the day, Stamford was a dominant program the way New Canaan and Darien and St. Joe’s are now. They also play in a historic facility, there is no better stadium in the state than Boyle. I was born and raised in Stamford, I still live here and I love being part of this community. Stamford is a great sports town.”

Panapada replaces Jamar Greene, who stepped down after this past season to focus on his career as a school administrator.

Prior to taking the Stamford job, Panapada coached Trinity Catholic for six seasons, guiding the Crusaders to an overall record of 25-39. The Crusaders captured the Stamford City football championship over Stamford and Westhill three times.

“There are a lot of reasons why Donny was the best choice for us,” Stamford athletic director Chris Passamano said. “He has head coaching experience and experience rebuilding a program. We are in better shape than Trinity Catholic was, but the situations are not dissimilar. He was a FCIAC coach of the year, he was on a state championship coaching staff and he wants to be here and cares deeply about this community.”

Panapada was the Crusaders’ offensive line and junior varsity coach under Rich Albonizio from 1994-96, then went with Albonizio to Greenwich, where he was an assistant for six seasons before returning to his alma mater in 2010 as part of Pete Stokes’ coaching staff .

As a player, Panapada, a 1993 Trinity graduate, was a three-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines for coach Rich Albonizio at Stamford/Trinity Catholic where he was a two-time all-FCIAC selection a Connecticut Post all-star pick his senior season.

Panapada has been waiting for the right opportunity to get back into coaching after leaving Trinity following the 2018 season. He has been working with the local flag and middle school tackle football programs the last few years.

“I’ve missed it since I left. I thought about applying for Westhill last year, but that didn’t feel right. With my two daughters in the school and me living a mile-and-a-half away, this made sense,” Panapada said. “I always said Trinity was my one job, but after Trinity closed, Stamford was really the only other job I’d take. I’m humbled they chose me and excited to get started.”

The biggest difference for Panapada will be the pool of players to choose from with Stamford having more than 1,100 boys currently in the school, more than the enrollment for the entre school at Trinity in his final years.

“Having 1,100 boys is very exciting. We want to get a good product on the field,” Panapada said. “Stamford can be good again. It’s going to take work from the kids and work from the coaches. But Stamford has people who care about the football team and want to see it succeed in the principal and athletic director.”

With Aland Joseph the head football coach at Westhill, both Stamford public school varsity football coaches are graduates of Trinity.

Panapada said he and Joseph will work closely to help build Stamford’s youth program.

“We are both Catholic High guys so we will work together to get the youth program back where it needs to be,” Panapada said. “It is already moving in the right direction and Aland and I talked a lot about how to improve it last year. We need to get our kids playing younger to keep up with these other towns.”

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

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