Stafford/Somers/East Windsor football coach Brian Mazzone lost his father, 66-yard-old Gary Mazzone, in the B-17 plane crash at Bradley Airport on Wednesday. On Saturday, he did exactly what he would have if he hadn’t: coach his football team to a win.
“My dad was actually upset because it was supposed to be an 11 o’clock start,” Mazzone said. His dad never missed a football game. “When it got moved to 2:30 he was like oh, I can come late.”
Gary didn’t get to see this game kickoff, but there wasn’t a doubt in Brian’s mind that he would miss it too. Instead, he did what he could to get through: stop by his dad’s house and pick up a Bulldogs sweatshirt. One with ‘Big Gar’ embroidered on the arm.
“The mornings are really hard. I wake up every morning and they’re really hard,” Mazzone said. “I woke up this morning and I wanted my dad. I always have a different hoodie, I have a million shirts and I wanted this one. This will be one of my shirts for the rest of the season.”
With his dad by his side, Brian coached his Bulldogs to a victory. No player – not his current ones on the field, nor the dozen or alumni who came back to support him – was surprised to see him on the sidelines.
“We know he hates to miss practice so we knew he wouldn’t,” Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Ouellete said. In fact, Mazzone only missed one full day off the field: the day of the crash. He came back Thursday and found comfort in his players and coaching staff.
That love and support carried into Saturday. Players on both teams wearing “GM” decals on their helmets, a pregame “moment of celebration,” and at the end of the game, one by one, players hugging their coach until it was impossible to find him in the pile.
“We knew once we heard the news that we were going to rally and come to this game,” Colton Engel, the Bulldogs former star quarterback, said of his decision to change his plans and come to the game.
“I said I need you guys more than anything this week and this year,” Mazzone said. “There’s a lot of love in that.”