Warhill Football (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Warhill welcomes new head coach Jerome Rhodes
by Brandon Mitchell, recruit757
When former Warhill head coach Thad Wheeler arrived on campus in August of 2014, the goal was to build a culture of excellence into the Lions program. Wheeler spent the first three seasons speaking and placing a new found life within the Warhill program. It was a life that didn’t translate into winning seasons until 2017. In his first three seasons, Wheeler led the Lions to a 10-21 record with two first-round playoff exits. In his last two seasons, Wheeler accumulated a record of 15-8 and added two more playoff appearances including the Lion’s first playoff win since the 2011 season.
However, just a few months ago, Wheeler took over the head coaching position for Robert Castro at Riverheads. Castro left the Gladiators football program with a record of 222-59 over 23 years of coaching Riverheads. His mark was well imprinted into the program winning his third-consecutive state championship in December of 2018.
Wheeler stepping down left a vacated position open at Warhill which was finally filled last week. The Lions are set to announce on Thursday evening the hiring of former Woodside defensive coordinator Jerome Rhodes. The former Woodside assistant leaves the Wolverines’ program after 12 years working side-by-side with head coach Danny Dodson. Despite stepping out on a leap of faith, Rhodes defined the move as bitter sweet while saying his goodbyes to his former student-athletes.
“Coach Price left us and went to Warhill. He’s been up there for the last four or five years. He called me and let me know the job was open. Warhill is a great fit for me as we’ve worked with Warhill before. They run similar sets to the ones we run at Woodside so I was anxious to get on board. Thank God they decided to go with me,” explained Coach Rhodes.
Rhodes has been attached to the Woodside football almost as long as Danny Dodson has been with the Wolverines. It’s always been a goal of his to control his own football team and he has finally been afforded an opportunity to do so.
“It was always a desire of mine to be a head football coach. I was just looking for a system that was a good fit and had the right people and I found that in Warhill. It was very difficult to leave Woodside because it was a great system and we had great leadership,” Coach Rhodes stated.
Coming into Warhill, Rhodes isn’t expected to make any coaching changes to the staff that is already in place. As a matter of fact, he’ll be reunited with two coaches that played for him not too long ago in Aaron Evans and Terrell Richmond. This should make the transition than much smoother for the former Woodside assistant.
The main initiative for Coach Rhodes moving forward will be to get as many student-athletes out on the football field as he can. With all that Coach Wheeler has put into place over the last five years, Rhodes has no intentions of changing a culture of football that doesn’t need to be tweaked. Rhodes also plans to contribute to the areas he feels as though the Lions are currently lacking.
“For those that aren’t on the football field, I want to get those kids out on the football field and help them get excited about being a Lion. I know some of their numbers were down because it was kind of the same at Woodside. But the number one thing is to get kids out and committed to the program,” Coach Rhodes said.
While at Woodside, Rhodes philosophy and respected perspective towards the defensive side of the ball allowed Coach Dodson to put a lot on trust in him. So much that Coach Dodson took his hands off the defensive side of the ball and lent more of his expertise to the offensive side of the ball. Despite Rhodes spending much of his time with the defense, Coach Dodson still consulted him towards offensive matters. This is a trend he plans to continue while at Warhill.
“I expect that to continue at Warhill because Todd Price is a big friend of mine when it comes to the X’s and O’s on the offensive side. I just want to make sure that whatever we decide to do that we’re going to be known for those things. It’s going to be tough because I understand that we lost some kids from last season and that’s okay. Once we get a good look at what we’re capable of, I just want to make sure we’re doing things the right way,” explained Coach Rhodes.
Coach Rhodes started his journey joining the Army right out of college. Rhodes left the military after three years of service and picked up a job at Woodside. Since then he’s been with the Wolverines for a total of 15 years coaching both football and track. One could say the move to Warhill was inspired by his wonderful wife of 19 years (this May) who has taught at both Denbigh and Heritage since their departure from Ft. Eustis.
“My family is excited, but my wife is extremely excited. She’s the one that’s kind of been pushing me to move on as a head coach. She’s been trying to get me to do this for the longest and I should’ve listened to her, but I was so content with Woodside and I loved working with the people there. She was the one that pushed me and was the driving force for me to do this here,” explained Coach Rhodes.
As of right now, the Lions don’t have many offseason commitments pertaining to their schedule. There isn’t much field work going on collectively as their spring weight training program is in full effect on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday’s. Warhill has June 8th locked in its calendar and is prepared to compete in the York Battlefield 7-v-7 Shootout. There’s a tentative 7-v-7 scheduled in May, however; all of the details haven’t been worked out yet.
– Brandon Mitchell