Just weeks before the start of fall practices, Mark Ecke has resigned as Danbury’s football coach, athletic director Chip Salvestrini announced Wednesday.
Ecke, who was a blockbuster hire for the struggling Class LL program just over a year ago, resigned to take a job at the new Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport.
EDanbury was 8-3 in Ecke’s one season. It was the school’s best football season since the Hatters’ last state playoff berth in 2003. He had previously won 118 games and four state titles in 17 years at Cheshire high School from 1995-2012,
Salvestrini said Ecke called at 8:40 a.m. to resign. “I’m still picking myself up off the floor,” Salvestrini said.
“It was devastating for me,” said Ecke, who will teach Social Studies at Captial Prep Harbor Magent. “It’s killing me. I feel bad for the school and the kids. I love Danbury, it’s a great school with great kids. But it just didn’t work out for me getting a job there and it was a decision I had to make.”
Defensive coordinator Alex Trasacco, a Cheshire resident and longtime assistant coach for all three New Haven football programs who came to Danbury with Ecke last year, will take over as interim coach.
This is Trasacco’s first head coaching job. The 57-year old has been a high school football coach since 1985 when he started with Hillhouse. He’s also coached at East Haven with Rusty Dunne, at Hyde with Melvin Wells and at Wilbur Cross with John Acquavita.
“I’m happy for Alex,” Ecke said. “He’s been at this a long time and he deserves it. I hope they have a great year.”
Ecke, who had just renewed his teaching certification, had been working as a tutor at Danbury. Salvestrini said he was working with the school district to secure a full-time job for the coach.
“He was coming back (as a tutor) and did very well with that and we were working toward helping him become a teacher,” Salvestrini said. “But I didn’t know this would happen as quickly as it did.
“The timing isn’t good, that’s for sure. But from a standpoint that a guy needs a full-time gig, I understand. He also has a son in college. But we have a good replacement and a person who we think will pick the ball up quickly and be ready for August 21st.”
Salvestrini met with some of the Danbury players soon afterward to give them the news. He consulted with Danbury Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella, who approved Trasacco’s appointment to head coach.
Trasacco played football at Hillhouse, from where he graduated in 1976, at Cheshire Academy and at Southern Connecticut State where he played quarterback, defensive back and was a kicker. He began his coaching career at WestConn with Paul Pasqualoni. He was teammates with and then coached with Staples’ Marce Petroccio. He began coaching at Hillhouse in 1985. He also coached Wilbur Cross’ boys lacrosse team and coached Ecke’s sons in the Cheshire youth lacrosse program.
Trasacco spoke with Ecke on Tuesday night and was prepared when he got the call from Salvestrini.
“When Chip called this morning to offer me the job, before he could even get the words out of his mouth I said ‘I want it,'” Trasacco said.
Trasacco, who said he jumped at the chance to go to Danbury with Ecke, was able to get a job at Danbury as a technical education teacher. He said almost the entire staff will remain at Danbury, including his son, Casey, who helped Ecke design and run last year’s offense.
“It’s unfortunate Mark had to go, but you have to do what’s best for your family,” Trasacco said. “I heard the kids were pretty devastated when they found out, but when they found out I was taking over, they felt better about it.
“We want to keep what we started here going. The coaching staff has a good rapport with the kids. We want to keep building the family atmosphere here. Keeping it consistent is key. Having grown up in a city and having coached city teams, I understand what we have to go through to be successful.”