Union defensive coordinator Mike Rhodes was named the new head coach of the Eastside football program.
“I’m looking forward to it. They were very successful last year, and I hope to build on that this season. It’s a great opportunity,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes, who also was the Union softball coach, fills a void left at Eastside by the resignation of Jason Hicks, who resigned earlier this month to accept the position of assistant principal and athletic director at Union.
Under Hicks last season, the Spartans finished 6-5 with a 5-0 mark in the Cumberland District and a district championship.
Rhodes was with the Union football program for four years, including the last two years as defensive coordinator. Prior to that, he was an assistant football coach at the former Appalachia High School and was a linebacker coach for three seasons at Virginia-Wise. He has also served as coach of the wrestling program at Union and Appalachia and as baseball coach at Appalachia.
He has not had a chance to meet with the Eastside football team yet, but he said he hopes to do that soon.
“We have a week before the (VHSL athletic) dead period. Then we’ll have time after that. ... We’ll have some time to get ready for the season,” said Rhodes.
Despite having time, Rhodes is aware of the urgency to get things going soon for the Spartans. Eastside opens the regular season on Aug. 24 at Wise Central.
“I can’t wait to get in there and get started. I’m ready to hit the ground running,” said Rhodes.
As far as specifics for offensive and defensive schemes, Rhodes is waiting to evaluate the talent he has.
“I don’t want to go into it with a concrete system if the kids don’t fit the system,” said Rhodes. “I need to have a handle on our personnel and what they can do and can’t do.”
A big change for Rhodes will be going from a Class 2 program to a Class 1 program, where the numbers will be significantly less. But he said his experience with coaching at Appalachia prepared him for dealing with limited numbers. He also hopes to see the roster at Eastside increase in number of players.
“The ultimate goal is to get the numbers up. That’s one of the first things I’ll be working on when I get there. I hope to talk to kids and hit the hallways getting them out,” said Rhodes.
Despite his coaching of various sports, Rhodes said he plans to focus on football before venturing out to other sports.
“We really haven’t gotten that far yet. And with the limited time we have to work with, I’m going to have to throw everything I’ve got into the football program,” he said.