New Watertown Football Coach Works to Bond With Team, Build Excitement Around the Program

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Contributed Photo New Watertown Football Coach Joe Carroll took over the program in February and has been busy preparing for the first game in September.

The first official football game is more than four months away, but new Watertown High School football coach Joe Carroll has been busy trying to bond with players, prep them for the upcoming season, and create a team culture.

Since he was hired in February, Carroll has been making the most of the time he has with the team in preparation for his first season as a head coach. He takes over the Raiders after serving as assistant coach at Waltham High School for five years.

Carroll has put together a schedule and to-do list to keep him focused, and each day he tries to check a few things off the list. His first priority was to get to know the 50, or so, players on the team.

“It’s a good group. I took two weeks and met with every single kid individually. We took about 15-20 minutes to talk to each kid,” he said. “I had them fill out a questionnaire before we met. I wanted to know everything from who do you live with, who do you aspire to be, who’s your role model, to academics, how is your GPA right now, what is your goal as a football player, what do you want to do when you get out of football.”

He has found that the students from Watertown remind him of the players he knows from his hometown.

“I grew up in Waltham, right across the lines. We played Watertown every year (in youth football), so I knew a couple kids from this town,” he said. “It was always very similar to us: blue collar, gritty kids who worked really hard. The numbers were not really the highest, but they found a way to win, found a way to work really hard, and that’s exactly what I’m preaching to the kids. We are all we’ve got.”

Carroll continues to work at Waltham High School as a health and physical education teacher, but he and his fiancé moved to Watertown in February. Waltham High is a 10 minute commute for Carroll, so he can spend time with the team before and after school.

“I am fortunate enough to get with the kids early in the morning before my work. We are going Monday through Thursday working out and it has been awesome,” Carroll said. “I get out at 2 p.m., kids get out at 3 p.m. There is that hour window, so I can do whatever I need to — meeting with our AD, Ryan Murphy, or meeting with the kids, set something up at the high school on the field — I can do that.”

His title is head football coach, but Carroll sees his duties stretching well beyond the football field.

“It’s way more beyond football. That’s why I wanted to be a head coach,” he said. “As a head coach, obviously you are coaching football, but you are almost like the CEO of the program. You’ve got to oversee everything and anything that these kids do and are a part of. And you’ve got to develop them not just as football players, but as people, as community members, as sons and brothers.”

Carroll said the goal of the off-season competitions is not just to build excitement and get the team to gel, but to build good habits.

The team’s motto is “We over Me,” he said.

“All the decisions we make, it’s not about benefiting me, it’s about benefiting we, it’s benefiting all of us,” Carroll said. “Making sure that is in the kids’ minds and everything that we do, we are going to do some team building over the summer.”

As a team-building activity, Carroll has introduced the Raider Games.

“What it is is really an off season commitment,” Carroll said. “It’s giving points of how committed are you to being part of this program and being a better version of yourself.”

Players can earn points for participating in team weight lifts, for good grades, for attending school concerts or the school musical, he said.

“At the end of the summer having these points, they may get the gear first, pick out their jersey number,”Carroll said.

For the preseason practices, players have also been split into four squads, named Tango, Alpha, Bravo, and Echo.

“These are military names, and we did that for a reason to make sure that it feels like a brotherhood, feels kind of like we are in the military, that is where the discipline comes in,” Carroll said. “Whatever squad comes in first, we have a dinner of champions an those guys get to eat first, and they get custom T-shirts that say that.”

The Season

Official practices begin on Aug. 16, and after a few scrimmages (including against Waltham), the Raiders’ season kicks off at Greater Lowell Tech on Sept. 13. The home openers against Ipswich will be on Sept. 20.

“That’s a 7 o’clock game. I can’t wait for that game,” Carroll said. “I’m obviously looking forward to the first game but that first home game at Victory Field.”

Contributed Photo Before coming to Watertown, Joe Carroll coached at Waltham High School for five years.

Watertown will hit the road to play Brookline in the last non-league game. Then it’s on to the Middlesex League slate.

“We are in a super competitive league, the Middlesex League, especially our division has some great programs,” Carroll said. “Melrose, Wakefield, Burlington, Wilmington, Stoneham, we are going to see those guys this year, those are all historically really great programs, I am excited to get that going and be able to compete against those guys.”

Thanksgiving against Belmont is always a big game for Watertown, and Carroll’s first taste of the rivalry game will be a special one.

“Their brand new coach, Francois Joseph, is actually a friend of mine. He coached me when I was in high school and then I coached with him when I was at Waltham High School,” Carroll said. “I think it brings a little bit of new tradition to the old tradition. I’m super excited for that one. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.”

Coaching Background

Much of Carroll’s coaching philosophy comes from his time playing wide receiver for Sean McDonnell at the University of New Hampshire.

“I learned a lot of attention to detail, a lot of the things I preach to the kids, I learned there. He was the Robinson FCS Coach of the Year. We went to the semifinals my sophomore year against South Dakota State, Dallas Goedert was the tight end. It was a great experience to play there and play under a great coach,” he said. “I am fortunate enough to coach now and see what they were preaching to us, because now I can start doing it with high schoolers. A lot of the stuff I heard in college, I wish I had heard in high school. Having the chance to do that now with these kids is the best job ever.”

Photo by UNH Athletics A 2018 photo of Joe Carroll when he played at University of New Hampshire.

Becoming a coach and teacher was not his original plan coming out of college, where he majored in economics.

“It’s just so funny the way life takes you. COVID hits, I became a personal trainer. I loved fitness, loved working out, so I went for the Waltham job — coaching as an assistant,” Carroll said. “I went there, interviewed, had a really good interview with the AD there, Steve LaForest. He said we’d really love to have you in the building while you are being assistant coach, ended up being a paraprofessionals and then worked my way into being an educator, and I have my certification in health and physical education.”

The Staff

Another early priority for Carroll was to put together his coaching staff.

“These guys, I wanted to make sure they were great people first and then great coaches, great teachers, and their energy is high so the kids can match that when they go into practice and go into games,” Carroll said.

The seven assistants and one volunteer are a mix of old and new. Returning coaches include offensive line coach Rob Randall, defensive line coach Andrew Scopa, and defensive backs coach Haiden Pereira.

Randall has been a Watertown coach for more than a dozen years, and also teaches at the high school.

“Everyone I talked to raved about him. I wanted to make sure I had some sort of continuity for the kids, but I also wanted to make sure I had someone who knew the tradition of Watertown, where the program was.”

Scopa has been coaching for about 10 years, and also is an assistant coach for the wrestling and track teams. Pereira played in college at Salve Regina and brings a lot of energy, Carroll said.

Two of the coaches came over from Waltham with Carroll. Special Teams Coordinator Randy Alay played with Carroll at Waltham, and was a kicker at UMass. Defensive Coordinator Tim Huffam grew up in Medway and played linebacker at Western New England.

“He is a phenomenal coach. The way he’s able to make complex things just very simple for the kids to understand,” Carroll said. “Especially on the defensive side. Sometimes people think it’s just instincts, but a lot of it has to do with tactics and schemes, he does just a phenomenal job of putting kids in the right position for them to succeed.”

The Offensive Coordinator will be Peter Gleason, who has coached at a couple of Central Mass. schools — Millbury and Oxford, is a special ed teacher, and also the head track coach at Millbury High. 

Carroll also has a history with running backs coach Nick Caliri. He was a teammate at Waltham, played for Framingham State, and last year he coached at Billerica.

The volunteer defensive quality control coach is John Smith, who played 54 games as a defensive back at Holy Cross, the most in program history.

Each Sunday, Carroll meets with the staff. One week it will be with the offensive coaches, defensive coaches the next, special teams another week, and at the end of the month he gathers the entire coaching staff for a virtual coaching staff meeting.


Making connections in the community is also key to the Raiders’ future success, he said. Carroll wants to make sure that Watertown football is not just limited to the high school.

“We are going to be super involved with the youth, we have already started that,” he said. “We had the 7 on 7 spring league, and we had eight or 10 of our players being coaches and refs for that, and getting those little kids excited for the season but also when their season comes we are going to be really involved with that so hopefully that excitement transitions from they go from youth to middle school and middle school to high school they sustain those players.”

He has also reached out to parents to make sure they feel like part of the program, and also to alumni, and the boosters. Watertown’s first home game will be youth night.

“We really want to make sure that the community feels like football is back and make sure it is a priority and it is important around here, because it was and it still is,” Carroll said. “I’ve been talking to a few alumni. People are excited but there was always excitement around football in this town and there has always been some success. I think bringing that excitement back is what I am looking forward to, so having that home opener I think is huge.”

The WHS football boosters, the Gridiron Club, will hold a fundraising golf tournament on Aug. 11 to raise money for the team. The school pays for helmets, jerseys, pads and other items, the money raised will pay for items like team banquet, letterman jackets, T-shirts, and hoodies.

Carroll also wants to build the excitement around the team on social media. Watertown High School football has an Instagram @whsraidersfb and Facebook accounts.

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