Riverdale to name football stadium after Phil Watts

Former Riverdale football coach Phil Watts, right, is shown with current Warriors coach Will Kriesky. Riverdale will named its stadium after Watts, the first-ever coach for the Warriors, on Oct. 16 when they play Oakland. SUBMITTED



Riverdale High School will officially name its football facility the Phil Watts Tomahawk Stadium on Oct. 16 when the Warriors play host to long-time rival Oakland.

The Rutherford County Board of Education approved the proposal by Riverdale High on Thursday evening.

The actual field at Riverdale is named after long-time principal and coach Tom Nolan.

Watts became the first football coach at Riverdale in 1972 when the old Murfreesboro Central High School closed its doors and Rutherford County consolidated its high schools.

Watts coached the Warriors for 12 seasons from 1972-1983 and had an 81-47-2 record.

"They invited me over and talked to me about what they wanted to do, and I was taken aback by it all," said Watts, xx. “I don't know exactly how to feel about it. I’m very honored. I'm sure moving on a lot of people don't know who Phil Watts is, but I guess the name will be there now.

"My first group of guys are 65 years old now with kids and grandkids. I'm sure that generation will remember our history and how we got started. We had no equipment, no money and we bought an old beat-up bus for $1,500. We spent more money painting that Warrior wagon than we did on the bus.

"We couldn't even get into the school at that time. We didn't even have a practice field or locker room. We practiced at Hobgood Elementary. There are a lot of memories there. Everybody thought Oakland was going to be the No. 1 team in Rutherford County, but in my 10 years of playing them I believe we went 7-3. We had a lot of good and very young kids. I was 26 at the time, so I was wet behind the ears myself. We all grew up together."

Riverdale and Oakland didn't play the first two years after consolidation. However, Watts' team won the first-ever "Battle of the 'Boro," 10-7 in 1974, and the Warriors went 7-3 against the Patriots during his tenure, including winning the last three matchups and his final one against Oakland, 7-6, in 1983.

Dr. Tom Mosby, who played at Riverdale from 1976-1979 and now lives in Washington state, said Watts had a major influence in his professional life.

"I'd say I spent four great years at Riverdale and what I learned set the stage for the rest of my adulthood and how I navigated my life," Mosby said. "He taught me more than about X's and O's. He was a master motivator.

"A lot of my program is the reflection of the Riverdale program I went through."

Mosby is now the head coach of Belfair (Washington) High School. He was previously an assistant coach at Washington State University and spent 15 years in administration.

"I think it's a great, great recognition for coach Watts and a feather in the cap for Riverdale football," Mosby said. "I got a lot out of coach Watts' program and it's served me well throughout my life."

Riverdale alumnus Barbara Hutson Fry helped spearhead the move to name the stadium after Watts.

"I was over there one day and talking to (coach) Rickey Field and we were talking about the new building and I said this stadium need to be named after coach Watts," she said. "He was the first athletic director at Riverdale, too.

"We decided the stadium should be named after him since the field is named after Tom Nolan. He needs to be honored and it's a long time coming, and it should have been done a long time ago. It really did take off and I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be a very emotional night."

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