The longest tenured and winningest coach in Patton’s brief football history is taking a new job.
Tom Eanes on Monday night said that he has accepted the Bandys head coaching position, which came open April 17 when Trent Lowman resigned.
Eanes will be a P.E. teacher (weight training) at Bandys, the same role he held at Patton since his hiring nearly four years ago to the day, on May 20, 2014.
Eanes said he will assume football duties immediately with the Trojans while defensive coordinator Jonathan Browning has been named interim coach at Patton, said athletic director Jeff Williams.
Williams said the Panthers are four or five days into the NCHSAA’s 10-day spring practices and that Browning will head up the remainder of the team’s spring work, after which time Williams said, “we’ll evaluate it and see what we need to do.”
It’s unclear how quickly the search for Patton’s sixth all-time head football coach will start.
The News Herald reported in February that Sara LeCroy will take over as PHS principal on July 1 with Wendi Barber transitioning into a new role with Burke County Public Schools.
Earlier in February, Williams had moved from his assistant principal role at Freedom to take the same position at Patton, where he took over as AD for Josh Brittain, who left the position six months into his first year as AD.
Barber and Williams both said they weren’t sure based on the timing of the open position in relation to both the school year and the quickly upcoming season — practice opens 10 weeks from Tuesday — whether Barber or LeCroy (or both) would help oversee the process.
They both said that decision and the timeframe for a new hire would be left to the discretion of BCPS superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam.
Bandys will be Eanes’ ninth stop as a head coach and 2018 will be his 30th season. He has an overall record of 148-186-1, including 22-26 in four years at Patton. Eanes was 1-13 through a year and a half at Patton but was 21-13 afterward, with the Panthers recording each of the program’s first three winning conference seasons, and breaking (eight) then re-breaking (nine) the mark for overall wins the last two years.
Patton won its first two playoff games under Eanes, one in 2016 and one in 2017, beat Freedom for the first time in 2016 en route to the unofficial county title and played for its first conference title to end the 2017 regular season at Hibriten.
The Panthers also shattered numerous team and individual offensive records (rushing yards, total yards, points; single game and season) during Eanes’ tenure.
Eanes, 62, was named Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference and Charlotte Observer region coach of the year in 2017 after winning coach of the year in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference in 2015. Eanes was previously 1A state coach of the year in 2010 when he led Pender to the NCHSAA 1AA title game and a program-record 12 victories.
No coach had lasted longer than two varsity seasons at PHS before Eanes.
“Coach Eanes made a huge impact on Patton,” Barber said. “He brought together those kids and took a program that was crushed and instilled spirit that had been lacking. He’s a good man and will do great things wherever he goes. I think a lot of him and admire him very much. I had hoped this day wouldn’t come, but we wish him the best. He made my three years here at Patton very memorable.”
Eanes said a couple selling points for the move were being closer to his wife’s mother in the Newton area as well as the tradition of Trojans football and community support the program always receives.
“But both principals I worked with here at Patton were very good, very supportive,” Eanes said. “What the young men have done buying into the system, I couldn’t ask more than that. We accomplished a lot in a short time here. It was a good run and a good group of kids.”
Eanes said his son and offensive coordinator, Drew, 34, would fill the same coaching spot at Bandys.
Patton is the third Burke County program in the hunt for a head coach this offseason, with none of the coaching vacancies overlapping on the calendar.
Draughn parted ways with Scott Lambert on Nov. 20 and hired Chris Powell on Dec. 13. Freedom’s Jim Bob Bryant resigned Jan. 11 and Luke Little was hired March 13.
Patton's new head coach will mark the 20th different hire in the county for football since Draughn and Patton opened and Freedom and East Burke dropped classifications about 10 years ago.
Patton notably this fall expects to welcome back the county’s leader in tackles and interceptions, Mason Streppa (who has also played some quarterback in the past), as well as rising senior backs Traevon Lytle, Jamir Epps and Matt Byrd who between them totaled over 1,700 rushing yards and 23 TDs in 2017.
Paul Schenkel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8950.