TOMBSTONE — When Jerome “Jerry” Rhoades was in high school he often lined up across from the black and gold of Tombstone High School.
Rhoades went to high school in Hayden, Arizona where he played football, basketball and baseball. He recalled coming to Tombstone for athletic purposes throughout his high school career.
On June 1, Rhoades officially becomes the head coach of the Yellow Jackets’ football program after the Tombstone school board approved him in May and after Mike Hayhurst was relieved of his duties in January. Rhoades told the Herald/Review he has wanted to coach in Tombstone and when the opportunity presented itself he has to go for it.
“Tombstone is my favorite place on the planet as far as the history,” he said in a phone interview. “I come down there half a dozen times a year.”
Rhoades has 28 years of coaching experience, 27 of which was spent in Arizona in various positions guiding high school football players. He spent last football season in Scottsdale as the defensive coordinator for Scottsdale Preparatory Academy and the previous two seasons as head coach at Camp Verde High School.
“Typically a team coached by me is defensively minded, aggressive, in shape, disciplined and they’ll never go away. They’ll never give up,” he said. “And that’s what I hope to bring to (Tombstone).”
In order to get his new team where he wants them to be come kickoff time, he plans to have summer workouts two or three times a week, where the players will be in the weightroom “creating a certain level of strength” as well as implementing some offensive and defensive schemes.
Tombstone completed spring ball last week and the new head coach made sure to be there last Friday for the team’s final day. Rhoads said he was impressed with the number of kids that were out there, roughly 16 or 17, as it was more than he thought. He wanted to see what he would be working with come summer practices, but most importantly he wanted to get to know the players.
Though he hasn’t been with the team very much since being hired he thinks the Yellow Jackets will be a defensive team — which fits his past teams, philosophy and benefits the kids who were on the team last year since they has a young defensive core. Rhoades know’s he’ll have to be patient with the offense since they are losing their offensive juggernaut, Tyler Wilridge.
“You can’t just replace a back like (Wilridge),” he said. “Hopefully our defense can carry us until we find our identity.”
He added the key to the success of this season will be whether or not the team buys into the system and what he believes. With an older group Rhoades knows some may still feel loyal to Hayhurst but he hopes they can buy into the new regime.
Rhoades admits he doesn’t know who was on last year’s coaching staff and is still in the process of building a group of coaches. Ideally he would like to have six coaches including himself.
“I’m more of a defensive guy,” he said. “It’s easier for me to trust a defensive guy and call the offense myself. There’s so much more going on offense than defense. The person needs some experience to call the offense.”
Rhoades will also be a physical education teacher at the high school, which he feels is important to be on campus so he can get to know his players off the football field and build trust with them.
When asked what he wants people to know about him, Rhoades said “I love kids and I have a 20-year-old daughter that is my priority. I hope to go down there and get 35 more kids and mentor them and lead them in a positive direction in all aspects of growing up and being a man.”