STRATFORD—In the end, Sean Mignone knew he had to listen to his heart.
The former Bunnell High football coach, who had led the Bulldogs program for the past four-plus seasons, stepped down this week, citing the fact he simply wants to spend more time with his family.
The news broke on GameTimeCT’s web site on Wednesday night and, on Thursday, Mignone told The Stratford Sports Scene that is was simply time to change his priorities.
“Watching my own kids grow up and start to get involved in athletics and other activities, I knew I had to make a choice,” Mignone said. “I try to be the best father to my kids that I can be and be a role model for them. Plus, I want to be able to coach them, see their games and be at their activities. So, I had to make a decision.”
Mignone has been a teacher for 17 years and a coach in some capacity for 14 of those. As such, he knows that to be a successful coach of a successful program, it can’t be a part-time gig
“Being a head high school football coach is not a three-month-a-year job, it is a 12-month-a-year, 7-days-a-week responsibility. And I loved it,” Mignone said. “I could not be the head football coach at Bunnell and not give it 100 percent of my time and effort. I could never coach or run a program that way.”
Mignone sensed heading into the season that this might be it.
“My heart was telling me last summer that this past season might be my last as head coach at Bunnell,” he said. “I spoke to family, my coaching staff and some close friends about the possibility during the season. After giving myself a month to think it over, I decided that it was time to step away and be around more for my own kids.”
Mignone had been an assistant at Bunnell for two seasons before he was promoted to the role of interim head coach midway through the 2014 season.
He replaced Doug Cotto, who was placed on administrative leave and relinquished of duties later that season.
After posting a 4-1 mark over the second half of that season, Mignone was officially named the head coach.
He was 33-14 over his Bunnell career
“This decision was not easy,” Mignone said. “It was also not a decision I made based on anything that happened during the course of last season, or any of my time at Bunnell. When I was hired as an assistant coach my son had just turned 4 and my daughter was 1. Now my son will be 11 this spring and my daughter will be 8 this fall.”
Mignone said he is proud of how the program has grown during his tenure.
“I am very proud of both my coaching staff and our players,” he said. “Together we were able to stabilize and reinvigorate the football program at Bunnell. It wasn’t always easy. I was lucky to have some phenomenal athletes, and some great coaches on my staff. I have to mention Dave Silas, my defensive coordinator, who is the best football coach I have ever been around. Together over the past four and a half seasons we were able to get the most out of our athletes, most of the time.”
Silas is also no longer a part of the Bunnell coaching staff, according to social media posts.
Mignone was 4-6 in his first full season at Bunnell, but since then the Bulldogs rattled off 25 wins over the last three seasons, including Class L postseason appearances in 2016 and 18.
This past season, Bunnell was 9-1, but ran into the buzz saw that is Daniel Hand in the Class L quarterfinals, losing 56-0.
“After a tough first full season, we started winning consistently,” Mignone said. “That becomes infectious and winning becomes expected. None of it would have been possible without commitment and hard work from the players, and the players buying into what we were selling.”
While there are many memories to be had, Mignone said a few stand out.
“I could easily say some of the dramatic wins we have had over the past six seasons,” Mignone said when was what the highlight of his career at Bunnell would be. “And we had some nail-biters, overtime games, games we won on the last play. I honestly think that’s what I will remember most.”
One game that stands out above many others, he added, was beating Masuk, 31-29, at home on a field goal as time expired in 2017.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” he said.
The coach was also especially proud of how his program consistently overcame the adversity a football season could dish out.
“The last three seasons we lost our starting QB for multiple games each season due to injury,” he recalled. “We won our last two games in 2017 without completing a pass in either game. Adversity taught our kids about heart and playing for each other when no one expected they could succeed. And regardless of the situation you need to believe in yourself and your teammates.”
While his future will be focused on enjoying his own family for a while, Mignone didn’t rule out a return to the sideline somewhere down the road.
“I don’t know. I am going to enjoy the new free time that I will have for now,” Mignone said. “No one knows what the future holds, so maybe somewhere down the line I will be coaching again. I guess we will see.”
Leaving Bunnell as a coach, though, Mignone has nothing but good things to say about the school’s athletic program.
“First of all I would like to publicly thank all the players I coached over the past six years for everything they gave me–the hard work, the effort, the time and the memories,” he said. “I would also like to publicly thank Bunnell High School, the administration and the athletic department, first for taking a chance hiring me and my staff, and for the support they have given myself the program during my time as head coach.”
Bunnell athletic director said a search for Mignone’s replacement is already under way.