For certain, he ranks his ordination as a Catholic priest in 2007 at No. 1. Before that, it might be his being named to the Division VI All-Ohio team in football at St. Paul as a 280-pound left tackle.
And what happened Saturday night at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University will rank no worse than third. It was the night the school he is president of, Cardinal Stritch High School, won a boys basketball regional championship over perennially-tough Division III foe Coldwater — giving the school its first-ever appearance in the state semifinals.
The No. 11-ranked Cardinals (24-3) face No. 15 Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (21-8) at 2 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State University in Columbus.
“As far as school pride, it doesn’t get much better than that,” the 39-year-old Schild said. “It is absolutely remarkable. It is an over-stated cliché, but this group truly does win because they are a selfless team. And that is the only way they managed to accomplish what they have done.
“As proven by their individual statistics, there is no one on the team that is playing for themselves,” he added. “There is a unique balance because of this brotherhood.”
Schild explained that the team is made up of a diverse spectrum of beliefs. He went on to say, however, that they are all outstanding young men — both leaders and volunteers in the community.
“Four of the starters volunteer their study hall time in the younger grades, K-2,” he said. “Those young men are absolutely adored by those children, especially the second graders. To go one step further, the starters take time out after the game to pose for pictures with the students they are helping.
“Undeniably, the players’ fan base is those second-grade students,” Schild added. “For teenagers to teach to the level of those little tots on a weekly basis tells you a lot about those athletes.”
The son of Denny and Karen Schild, Eric admits his hiring five years ago of a Rossford native with college coaching experience, Jamie Kachmarik, had much to do with the elevation of the basketball program.
“Coach Kachmarik came here by way of Ohio State and Coastal Carolina,” Schild said. “But, he wanted to get back to this area because he wanted to devote more time to his family. His coaching positions had him on the road much of the time.
“His strength is his ability to bring out the best in certain individuals and then mesh the group into a cohesive unit,” he added. “We saw the molding of a championship-caliber team starting to take shape five years ago. I see him as the John Livengood-type leader; a father-type figure who both knows his sport and knows how to lead young people.”
The 1998 St. Paul graduate remembers his football days under Livengood quite well.
“I remember my junior year when St. Paul went to the state title game for the first time,” he said. “We almost had a 21-0 lead on Delphos St. John’s — only to lose to them 42-28. Those were memorable days.
“Probably few people know this, but the two most recently ordained priests from the St. Paul parish, myself and the late Fr. Tony Borgia were both all-Ohio football players,” Schild added. “Indelible in my mind when I entered our locker room, was the wooden placard inscribed with the name of my uncle, Tony Borgia, as an All-Ohioan.”
Schild is the pastor at Walbridge St. Jerome Catholic Church and President of Cardinal Stritch High School, both titles delegated by the Bishop of the Toledo Diocese, Daniel Thomas.
“I see myself as a spiritual father of the students at Stritch,” he said. “To be able to pray with them Saturday night after the win and then have them come to Mass at St. Jerome on Sunday is a powerful thing. They come to my office and talking about their lives and the lives of others.
“Those are the rapport pieces I am blessed to have,” Schild added. “Times when I see those young men as a lot more than basketball players. They are doing brotherhood well, something that makes us proud at Cardinal Stritch.”
Kachmarik has the same kind of rapport with the team. He learned just how close he was after his team lost last year to perennial-state power Archbold in overtime of a district championship game. On March 9, the Cardinals then beat previously-unbeaten Genoa in double-overtime to reach the regionals.
“The seniors all but set me down after the Archbold game and told me that would not happen again,” Kachmarik said. “And it has not. We lost three games this year by a total of eight points and went 9-1 in the highly-competitive Toledo Athletic Conference. That loss, on a tip-in at the buzzer, was to Toledo Christian.”
Lockdown defense on the part of the starters including its No. 1 defender junior Joey Holifield, has had a lot to do with their success story — including a 57-40 win at Norwalk (23-4) on Feb. 12.
“Joey takes his assignment of shutting down our opponents No. 1 offensive threat to heart,” Kachmarik stated. “He has done that time and again. His responsibility at Norwalk was the Haraway boy (Brandon), and holding him to seven points was instrumental in winning against a great opponent on the road.”
The Stritch program started taking shape three years ago when the present senior class went 21-5, making it to the regional. They then went 23-2 last year, and are averaging 66 points while playing lockdown defense this season.
Kachmarik, who has had coaching college stops at Ohio State, William & Mary, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, and UNC-Wilmington prior to coming back home, starts a very balanced offensive lineup. It includes Notre Dame College recruit Jordan Burton (5-feet-10, 14.4 ppg), the 6-2 Holifield (14.4 ppg, 6.8 reb), 6-3 senior Little Anderson (13.8 ppg, 7-9 reb), 5-5 sophomore Jhaiden Wilson (10.0 ppg) and 6-7 senior Nolan Finch (6.7 ppg, 4.5 reb).
The first two players off the bench are Tiffin University recruit Ashton Caryer (6-6) and junior defensive specialist Ben Dunsmore (6-1).