When Gerald Warmack was hired as varsity head football coach at Shroder Paideia Academy eight years ago, he anticipated a numbers problem. According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association web site, Shroder has 191 boys enrolled, making it the second-smallest school in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference. Warmack had to find a way to do more with less.
“When I first took over, I talked about establishing a program, something sustainable to put the kids in a place to be successful,” Warmack said. “Lots of teams were throwing the ball around. We needed to figure out a way that makes us successful. We found an offense that works.”
The Jaguars, who will make the first postseason appearance in school history on Saturday at 7 p.m. when they host Hamilton Badin in the first round of the Division V, Region 18 playoffs at Taft’s Stargel Stadium, laid the foundation of a successful program in the trenches.
“We started up front,” Warmack said. “We got kids that were running backs or linebackers when they were young and put them on the offensive line, guys that didn’t mind doing the dirty work.”
Shroder (9-1) makes up for its lack of comparable size and depth with a lethal mixture of speed and power in its running game, supported by athletic linemen with quick first steps.
“We get to the point of attack quick, lots of quick-hitters,” said Warmack. “Our blocking schemes are all about angles.”
The Jaguars’ rushing attack features 195-pound senior running back Anthony Brown, who has run for more than 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Shroder’s second-leading rusher is junior Tre’Son Martin, a 1,000-yard rusher with 16 TDs.
“He picks you apart,” said Warmack of Martin. “All of a sudden, you look up and he’s got 179 yards on 11 carries before you realize it.”
For leadership both on and off the field, the Jaguars rely heavily on senior Demontre Lewis, whose skills as a running back and linebacker, along with his 3.95 GPA, have drawn interest from Cornell, Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown.
Shroder mostly picks its spots in the passing game with junior QB Taylor Holston and junior receiver Charles Gamble. But Lewis believes the Jaguars will need at least the threat of the pass to loosen Badin’s defense.
“Badin’s best aspect is the defensive line,” said Lewis. “We need to block well to open up some running lanes. I think they’re going to be confident that they can stop our running game so we’re going to need to show the pass.”
Warmack praised Badin (7-3), a Greater Catholic League Coed member, and is impressed with Rams junior running back Philip Dozier, junior tight end Dominic Valentino, and junior QB Zach Larkin, who has passed for more than 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“They’re extremely physical,” Warmack said of the Rams. “They play in a tough conference. They’re used to playing in this type of situation, we’re not. We’ll have our hands full.”
Shroder has posted three consecutive winning seasons, going 23-7 in that stretch. But Saturday night is the Jaguars’ first opportunity to win on Ohio high school football’s big stage.
“There’s a very high level of excitement,” said Lewis. “We have something to prove. We feel like we need to prove we belong here.”