WILLIAMSBURG — “Friday Night Lights” is a series looking in on area high school football programs ahead of the 2023 season.
The Warhill High School Lions have worked hard in the offseason and are headed into practice with a united mindset.
Lions head coach Jerome Rhodes has been at the helm of the program for five years. Originally from Ohio, Rhodes ran track and played football in high school, before being stationed at Fort Eustis.
During the 2022 season, Warhill posted a final regular season record of 7-3. After losing in the second round of the playoffs to Kingsport, its final record was 8-4.
Rhodes spent some time in the early weeks of the season coaching kids to play in new positions.
“We had a pretty good football team and we were breaking in some guys in new positions. We struggled a little bit to move the ball, but that’s typical when you are breaking in a new quarterback. After the third game of the season, we really exploded and we were really excited about what we were able to accomplish with a one-year quarterback,” Rhodes said.
The Warhill Lions will return 13 starters for the 2023 season, including tight end and linebacker Henry Houberg; running back and linebacker Ed White; outside linebacker, defensive end, and defensive tackle Maximus Schilling; running back and wide receiver Jaedyn McAdoo; wide receiver, quarterback, and cornerback Ron Foskett; wide receiver and cornerback Ta’vyion Blockett; left guard and defensive tackle Gustavo Facundo-Bacelar; linebacker Nicholas Marrero; running back Isaiah Rembert; wide receiver and defensive back Taylen Eady; running back, wide receiver, and cornerback Elijah Williams; center and defensive lineman Jack Baker; and offensive lineman and defensive lineman Leland Hudik.
The Lions lost eight seniors to graduation, five being starters. For the 2023 season, Warhill boasts 22 seniors on the roster.
Looking ahead to the 2023 season, Rhodes is optimistic about his team’s chances with the schedule they have been dealt.
“The expectation, it’s always a hope to win every single game. We understand that can happen along the way, but this is certainly a team that, what I expect to see every single week, is highly competitive games. I expect them to compete and fight for 48 minutes. This is certainly not a team that will lay down,” Rhodes said.
When it comes to the Bay Rivers district, Rhodes knows how competitive other area teams are.
“This district is going to be extremely tough. Tabb is going to be great, Lafayette is going to be really tough. We have two out-of-district games that are very good programs with a lot of skilled players. We have an extremely hard schedule,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes approaches his athletes with the opinion that football is a conduit to life.
“We want to bring the best out of our kids on and off the field. We’re using football as a conduit to do that. We want to use the examples we have on the field to compare what’s going on in their lives. We want to show them that if they can get through some of the stuff that we’re asking them to do on the field, they can get through it off the field as well. We want to make these kids better people and we’re using football to do that,” Rhodes said.
To inspire them, the team often speaks about the motto “Lion pride, lion proud.”
“We expect our kids to be proud of wearing the uniform, representing themselves and the community. Warhill is a great place and we want them to love it. We want them to take pride in being a part of the program and being a part of Warhill,” Rhodes said.
As Rhodes takes the field during the season, he’s always addressing to his team the importance of showing up for what they believe in.
“We always talk about talented individuals and I always remind them that football is a microcosm of life. I tell the kids all the time, we don’t always get the highly talented individuals but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. It’s the same way in life. When it comes to talent and hard work, giving a great effort, fighting for what you believe in, it doesn’t always take talent to win and it doesn’t always take talent in life to be the greatest success story. What it does take is the grit and the hard work, and you may not get there as fast as somebody else but the end goal is to get there,” Rhodes said.
Warhill’s away opponents this season include Manor, Matoaca, York, Grafton, and Smithfield high schools. Warhill’s home opponents this season include Poquoson, New Kent, Lafayette, Tabb, and Jamestown high schools.
Game one of the 2023 football season for Warhill High School kicks off away against Manor High School on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.