It’s been almost three decades since Marce Petroccio coached with the Trumbull High football program, and four decades since he put on the pads for the black and gold.

But Petroccio feels right at home in his return, having taken over for longtime head coach Bob Maffei this spring.

McDougall Stadium field may be artificial turf now, but it’s the same venue and to a large degree, the same game of X’s and O’s.

“It’s like I never left,” Petroccio said during the team’s annual Black & Gold spring game, on a fall football weather-like June 15 early evening.

Petroccio graduated from Trumbull High in 1978 and was an assistant coach with the Eagles in 1992, under Jerry McDougall, for whom the field is named.

Petroccio said a couple of his former classmates are working in the school now, helping to make the transition smooth.

He’s looking to make the shift in coaching seamless as well.

“We’re going to have our ups and we’re going to have our downs,” said Petroccio, who has not been too far removed from Trumbull High throughout the years. He comes from FCIAC rival Staples of Westport, where he took the Wreckers to a trio of state championships, five conference crowns and 210 wins during a successful 25 years.

Now, he’s looking to help restore winning ways to a Trumbull program that last reached the pinnacle game in 2010, when the Eagles fell to Xavier High of Middletown in the Class LL championship battle.

The Eagles are coming off a 2-7 campaign, and Petroccio said he is looking to establish a winning culture behind a strong group of assistant coaches.

“I think we want to bring a level of toughness, at least be able to establish a running game,” Petroccio said. “We want to have a strong defense, and we want to play with high energy and excitement. I like what I see. Every day, we’re getting better.

“My kids are doing a great job. They’re putting points on the board. At times they’re playing great defense. It’s been a lot of fun. They’re like sponges and they’re soaking up everything we do.”

The spring practice session was grueling for the players by design. They were pushed, playing both sides of the ball, as part of an evaluation process. This critique was about more than just on-field ability. “We want to see who can hang in there mentally. We’re throwing a lot at them,” Petroccio said.

Trumbull High had plenty of success during his playing days. In his three years, Petroccio recalls, Trumbull lost just once on its home field. And that was to Staples.

The team won a state title in 1977 and was runner-up in 1976.

“It was very fun. I played with some great people, and for some great coaches,” said Petroccio.

Adam Tolk, a running back and linebacker, and Colton Nicholas, a quarterback, are team captains with more leaders to be named, according to Petrocchio.

“You hate to see Coach Maffei go, but now it’s a different mindset and a change with the energy Coach Petroccio brings,” said Tolk.