Just 21 days before preseason practice begins, St. Albans has its new football coach.
Nick Watts, 29, was unanimously approved for the position Monday by the Kanawha County Board of Education. Watts replaces Scott Tinsley, who recently stepped down after two seasons.
Watts, a 2006 SA graduate, was out of coaching the past two seasons and was employed as a teacher at Sissonville High School. Prior to that, he served as an assistant coach for three seasons under Luke Salmons at Cabell Midland (2012-14) and was the defensive coordinator under Marc Wilson at Sissonville in 2015.
Tinsley stepped down after two seasons at his alma mater, going 5-15. The Red Dragons finished 4-6 last season and 17th in the Class AAA playoff ratings, one spot out of the final berth. Four wins equals SA’s most in a season since making its last playoff appearance in 2007.
Watts’ vision includes expanding on that improvement in the coming seasons, and also in maintaining the success.
“What I want is to build a program,’’ Watts said. “In recent years at St. Albans, they’ve had a team every year, but I want to get away from that mantra of ‘team’ and make it more a program setting.
“Which means that instead of worrying about just 15 to 20 guys that can help you now and work with those guys, I want to work with every kid in the program — develop guys on the [junior varsity] and freshman level, so when it’s their time to step up, it’s not a culture shock and they’ve never done it before and don’t know how to play, or the techniques or the fundamentals. The goal is to have as many players on the team as we can, and to develop all of them so that we can build consistent winning and get in that habit.
“We want fundamental, disciplined, tough kids — hard-working kids. Kids who want to be there and want to participate. Good character, high-morals kids. That’s what the goal is.’’
Watts played four seasons as a wide receiver-defensive back at St. Albans, his first season under Bart Hillenbrand and his final three under Derek Christian. The Red Dragons improved from 1-9 to 2-8, then 6-5 and 8-4 in Watts’ four seasons, going to the Class AAA playoff quarterfinals his senior year.
He was selected to play in the 2007 North-South All-Star Classic and was picked as a team captain for the South. Watts then played defensive back at the University of Charleston, where he eventually became a starter, with four seasons under Tony DeMeo and one under Pat Kirkland.
Watts just missed St. Albans’ lone trip to the Super Six Class AAA state finals in Wheeling, which came in 2007 — a season after he graduated — but he has already gone there as an assistant coach at Cabell Midland in 2012.
At St. Albans, the players must not only adjust to a new coach, but they do so without their promising quarterback from last season, R.T. Alexander, a sophomore-to-be who is moving to Georgia with his family. Alexander was selected as the Gazette-Mail’s Freshman of the Year last season after throwing for 1,998 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Given those circumstances, Watts was asked why the St. Albans coaching position appealed to him.
“A winning season is why — that’s part of it,’’ Watts said. “Being an alum and being with Derek Christian and being part of that turnaround that happened at St. Albans.
“I’ve been in the [St. Albans] facility recently, and it’s just the state of the facility. I see it kind of from the perspective of the guys who were there when we were rebuilding everything — weight room, locker room. As a player, I helped lay sod on that field. So I had a lot of pride in that facility and our team and field and town and community. And I felt that’s something that was lacking recently.
“Now I’m blessed with the opportunity to say I want to come back and I want to restore that. Restore the winning tradition and pride in being a Red Dragon football player, pride in defending the town and the community. All of that’s a tall order, but I’m up to the task. I’ve already got some good assistants, like-minded individuals who have the program in mind, and not just the team. Not just in helping now, but building a program for the future.’’