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Watertown High School Football Insider: Q&A with head coach John Cacace

Posted Sunday, August 18, 2013 by Michael Antonellis
Watertown High School Football Insider: Q&A with head coach John Cacace
As the team takes to the field in the 2013 season, we see a strong core of seniors forming a good backbone on the offensive and defensive lines. Eighteen seniors make up the upper classman roster this year, but with new players at certain skill positions and a new playoff schedule format, there is uncertainty as well as optimism this season.
The Watertown Raiders Gridiron Club sat down with Watertown High School head football coach John Cacace for our annual interview with the Coach to learn more about his expectations for the season. 
WGC: Coach, describe the new playoff schedule format, and how could it benefit our Watertown Football team?

Coach Cacace:  
In years past, we had to win the league to qualify for the playoffs, and you played in the division your league was part of - which for the Middlesex league was Division 2.  Now, the entire state has been realigned by size of school into 6 divisions.  We are in Division 4 and if we make the playoffs, we will compete against similar size schools same as the other sports like basketball, baseball, lacrosse and hockey.  There are 16 teams in Division 4 North. The top 8 teams qualify for the playoffs.  We can make the top 8 automatically by finishing in first or second place in the Middlesex Freedom division or qualify as a wildcard team.  Wildcard entries into the playoff will be determined after the automatic qualifiers are set and the remaining spots go to wildcard teams to the fill the 8 team field.  The teams in Division 4 North come from 5 different leagues so automatic qualifiers can vary greatly. Non-automatic qualifiers will receive a power ranking based on number of wins and quality of opponents.  The top power rankings will receive the wildcard entries.  That said, if we qualify, I think we have a good chance to compete against the schools with similar enrollments as we have.  Our challenge is overcome a tough schedule where 4 of our 7 opponents are in a higher division than we are.
WGC: You always have to replace seniors every year, but how do you plan to replace those skill position senior slots from last year?

Coach Cacace:  
It’s always tough to replace your best graduating seniors, but there are always eager and talented players waiting for their chance to shine.  We lost 95% of our passing and rushing yardage via graduation from last year’s team (primarily in Joey Farrar and Logan Riley), but we have group of talented skill players who can make things happen on the football field.  We have receivers TJ Hairston (a league all star last year), Matt Donnell, Austin Farry, Joey Kelland and Erik Antonellis (all returning varsity players).  We have running backs Eric Tirrell and Mike Petrillo as well as Austin getting some reps there too.  And we have Nick Giordano at quarterback.  Nick has a great arm and is a three sport athlete with a lot of potential at the position.  I think we will find ways to move the ball and score points. 
WGC: Talk about what it means to the success of the team to have a large group of core seniors this year in 2013?

Coach Cacace:  
To be honest, it’s a pleasure.  A lot of these seniors have been playing varsity football since they were sophomores.  Sometimes, you feel like they’ve been in the program forever and it’s great to be on the same page with so many of your players.  But most importantly, it’s the leadership they provide.  They are an extension of the coaching staff.  They completely understand what we are looking for in our players from a commitment standpoint, from a leadership standpoint and certainly from a performance standpoint.  They understand the expectations of the coaching staff and they teach the younger guys how we do things as a program. 
WGC: Who are the team captains this year and what are you looking for from these players, and all the players on the team?

Coach Cacace:  
Our captains are Eric Tirrell, Luke Leitner and David Lucas (three 3-year starters and the hardest working guys on our team).   As I mentioned previously, these guys give us such great leadership.  They are outstanding young men who understand it’s not all about them.  It’s about the team.  They are personally committed and devoted to being great players themselves, but they are also wonderful roll models for the younger players and go out of their way to help the younger guys and to promote the philosophies of the coaching staff.
WGC: What is the big theme for this year, and what are your expectations for the 2013 Raiders?

Coach Cacace:  
We continue to talk about playing tough!  We have a brutal schedule and football is a tough game.  This is the strongest team we’ve had at Watertown with more than half our players (including sophomores) bench pressing over 200 pounds, with many over 250 pounds and a few 300 pounders.  The work these guys have done in the off season is impressive and we are looking forward to it paying dividends on the field.  Like I said before, we have a tough schedule, but our goal will to improve upon our successes from last year, knock off some of the perennial powerhouses in our league, make the playoffs and see if we can make some noise in Division 4.
WGC: Who do you expect will be your "high impact" players this season?

Coach Cacace:  We have a lot of talent on this team so many of our guys will have a chance to make an impact.  Offensively, we will look to remain balanced.  We have some explosive receivers who can make plays and get in the end zone and we have a terrific offensive line coming back from last year as well.  We have four starters returning in David Lucas, Luke Leitner, Michael Stinehart and Erik Baghdasarian so I look for our running backs to have some room to make plays.  We are also hoping to have a defense that makes plays.  We have 7 returning starters on defense so if we can plug a few holes with the younger guys, we look for our defense to be stingy.
WGC: Describe what it means to you and the team to host the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Victory Field this year.

Coach Cacace:  
Winning that game has been a goal every year since I’ve been here and what a great day it was for us and most importantly our seniors last year.  I remember the joy on so many people’s faces after that victory.  I know these seniors want to end their careers at Watertown High School in the same fashion.  We have a lot of work to do between now and then, but trust me, these seniors understand the hard work necessary to achieve victory and they will be working all season to accomplish that goal.. 

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