Rest easy, Jerry McDougall. Marce Petroccio is coming home.
Petroccio, a Trumbull native who spent the last quarter century turning Staples into one of Connecticut’s premier football programs, has accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Trumbull High School, where he played and where McDougall, one of Connecticut’s all-time winningest coaches, once roamed.
Petroccio confirmed the news Wednesday, shortly after informing his Staples players at a team meeting.
He takes over for Bob Maffei, McDougall’s successor, who resigned in November after 20 seasons. Petroccio is expected to begin a physical education job at Trumbull in the fall, though Trumbull athletic director Mike King would not confirm that aspect of the hire at present.
Petroccio brings over a sterling resume from Staples, the only head coaching job he’s ever had.
Beginning in 1993, when then-Staples athletic director Bob Byiteck hired Petroccio away from McDougall’s staff at Trumbull, the Wreckers won 210 games, three state championships and five FCIAC titles.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, I’ve had a lot of job offers at colleges and high schools, good jobs that I’ve always turned down because this place is awesome,” Petroccio said, referring to Staples. “It has great people, it’s a great community, has a great administration and great kids. I’ve been fortunate to coach here. There was only one job I would ever contemplate leaving for, and that was Trumbull High School.
“When you talk about the premiere jobs in the state of Connecticut, you talk about Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Hand, Cheshire, and even Staples… these are all storied programs and you have to put Trumbull in there with them. It was just an opportunity I had to explore and couldn’t turn down.”
Petroccio will be the fourth head coach in Trumbull’s history. While Maffei won 126 games and an FCIAC championship during his tenure, the Eagles haven’t won a state championship since McDougall’s third and final one in 1986.
Since then, Trumbull is 0-3 in state finals and hasn’t played for a title since 2010. The Eagles are coming off a 3-7 season.
McDougall, who died of leukemia in 2012 at age 76, would have loved this move, according to his son, Jerry McDougall Jr.
“Oh, he’d be ecstatic,” said McDougall Jr., who grew up in his dad’s program and is now a New York City police officer. “My dad loved Marce. They were close and kept in touch until the day he passed away. He’d be ecstatic that one of the Trumbull family is coming home.
“I don’t think they could have found a better guy. Marce is a unique individual and a lot of those qualities he brought to Staples, he’ll bring to Trumbull. I think he’s going to do a great job with the program.”
Petroccio likens this opportunity to the one he got at Staples. He hopes to revive this sleeping giant quickly.
IT’S OFFICIAL! The 4th Head Football Coach in Trumbull High history is MARCE PETROCCIO #trumbullpride #cthsfb @TrumbullTimes @TrumbullAthletics @THSBlackHole @GameTimeCT @SPBowley @DaveRuden @EricsonSports @ciacsports pic.twitter.com/hLzN05tr9z
— Trumbull Football (@TrumbullFB) January 24, 2018
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I think I just need to dive in like I did 25 years ago, work hard, bring in coaches who work hard so the kids see that we’re role models who are going to get back to what we once did here. We’ve got a big task ahead of us.”
King said Petroccio was among 60 interested parties and approximately 40 applicants for the job. “Coach Petroccio and many of the applicants I spoke with viewed this as one of the top jobs in the state,” he said. “Many applicants made that very clear.”
King wouldn’t say how many made it to the final round of interviews, which concluded last week. In the end, he said Petroccio’s deep ties to the town and its football program made him the obvious choice.
“Very clearly, his reputation as an outstanding football coach is well supported by his resume and many accomplishments,” King said. “When you combine that with his connection to this community, the fact he grew up here, that he played Pop Warner here, for this high school and was assistant coach here, it was the perfect combination and the perfect fit.
“He truly has a passion for this community and this school where he grew up and winning a state hcampiionship here. He just has a true love for community.”
Petroccio thanked King and Trumbull superintendent Dr. Gary Cialfi for trusting him with the keys to the Trumbull program.
“The one thing I know about Trumbull kids is they want to win, they want to work hard and they’re tough,” Petroccio said. “All the things I had at Staples High School, we’ll have at Trumbull High School. I’m excited.”
Still, it took a long introspection into what he accomplished at Staples and whether he wanted to leave for a new challenge for Petroccio to ultimately accept the job.
“It was not an easy decision,” Petroccio said. “I’ve been here a long time and we’ve done a lot of great things here. A lot of great things. But, in some ways, change is good for both this program and the Trumbull High program and myself.
“This has nothing to do with kids or administration [at Staples]. To have opportunity to come home — I mean, I lived there 38 years — it really is a special place and really the only place I would leave here for. I never thought this opportunity would ever come about, so I have to take it.”
It was equally tough on Staples’ end. Marty Lisevick, Staples’ athletic director, said Wednesday was “the toughest days I’ve ever had here.”
“I’ve been here 18 years and I drive, probably an hour and a half to get to work each day and Marce is one of the main reasons I do it every day,” Lisevick said. “He’s one of my best friends. We’ve done great together over the years and, I’ve gotta tell you, we were both a little teary-eyed talking to the kids today.
“You could hear a pin drop.”
Lisevick said he and many others involved with the program — “some of our youth coaches, some of our own team parents” — spent weeks attempting to sway Petroccio to stay.
“I’ve spoken to Marce several times leading up to this and, what can you say? He’s going home. As much as he loves the kids and the situation here, this is probably the only opportunity he would leave Staples for. And I get it. When you’re going home, that’s another thing entirely. It still kills me I won’t get to see him every day here.
“He’s just been… He’s a legend around here. That’s all I can say. What he’s done for hundreds of kids here. I’ve put him in every single situation imaginable and he’s been nothing but a role model and a fantastic influence on the kids here.”
Lisevick said he would begin forming a committee to find Petroccio’s replacement. “But that’s something I’ll deal with next week,” he said. “This is a great school and it’s a good job, no question.”
Petroccio, 56, played end for McDougall at Trumbull and was a senior on McDougall’s first state championship team, the 1977 squad which finished ranked No. 1 in the New Haven Register Poll, No. 1 in New England and ranked nationally
“Coach McDougall… he could make me do things I never believed I could do,” Petroccio said. “If he told you to run through a wall, you just did it. You didn’t question it. It was because he asked you to do it. It was our job.
“He was all about sticking together, having a special bond and winning. All of my best friends are the guys who I played football with. Coach McDougall became a good friend and confidant. I aspired to be all of the things that made him the incredible person he was. I’m humbled to even have the opportunity to coach where he coached, that’s for sure. It’s quite an honor.”
McDougall is just one of Petroccio’s many distinguished coaching mentors.
He played for Kevin Gilbride at Southern Connecticut State, coached as an assistant at Western Connecticut State under Paul Pasqualoni, then as the defensive coordinator at Cheshire under Steve Addazio. He reunited with McDougall at Trumbull for two seasons before taking over at Staples.
At the time of his hire, the Wreckers were a literal wreck. Long considered just a soccer school, Staples hadn’t been a factor in the state or local football scene since its unbeaten, No. 1-ranked and FCIAC championship season in 1975. Staples had won just 11 games in seven years.
Within four years, Staples — behind all-state quarterback Mac DeVito — won its first FCIAC championship since 1975 and played in its first CIAC state championship game.
Though the Wreckers lost to Hand in the 1997 Class L final, the experience helped kick-start a run of 13 state playoff appearances over the next 20 years.
Overall, Staples played in eight state championship games and won three titles, in 2002 (Class MM), 2004 and 2005 (both Class L). Staples also played in seven FCIAC championship games and won five (1997, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2012).
“I’m leaving this group in great shape,” Petroccio said of Staples. “The facilities are top-notch, the kids are great and are great leaders who are willing to sacrifice and get the job done. Whoever takes this job after me is going to be in great shape.”
Petroccio was the FCIAC coach of the year six times, the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year in 2007 and USA Today’s Coach of the Year in 2013.
He was inducted into the FCIAC’s Hall of Fame, the Greater Bridgeport Old Timers Hall of Fame and CHSCA Hall of Fame in 2014.
“I’ve been very fortunate here,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great support, Marty Lisivick, my athletic director, James D’Amico, our principal… they’ve all been very supportive. And the Trumbull guys seem to be the same way.
“It was a very difficult decision for me and for my family. I’ve been here a long time. But my family has been very supportive the whole way and, now that I’ve made my decision, I’m ready to go. It’s very exciting for me.”
Marce Petroccio File
Coaching Record at Staples
- 1993 — 2-8
- 1994 — 5-5
- 1995 — 5-5
- 1996 — 8-3
- 1997 — 11-2, FCIAC Champion, Class L runner-up
- 1998 — 8-2
- 1999 — 5-5
- 2000 — 7-3
- 2001 — 9-2, Class L semifinals
- 2002 — 12-1, Class MM Champion
- 2003 — 13-1, FCIAC Champion, Class L runner-up
- 2004 — 11-1, Class L Champion
- 2005 — 12-1, FCIAC runner-up, Class L champion
- 2006 — 10-2, Class L runner-up
- 2007 — 10-2, FCIAC runner-up, Class L semifinals
- 2008 — 6-5
- 2009 — 12-1, FCIAC Champion, Class LL runner-up
- 2010 — 9-2, Class LL quarterfinals
- 2011 — 12-1, FCIAC Champion, Class LL runner-up
- 2012 — 10-1, FCIAC Champion, Class LL semifinals
- 2013 — 8-3
- 2014 — 7-4
- 2015 — 7-3, Class LL quarterfinals
- 2016 — 5-5
- 2017 — 6-4