It paid to either be coming or going during the 2015-16 academic year if you were a coach at Surry Central High School.
The school names its Coach of the Year honorees during the school’s annual awards presentation Friday morning, and the winners were a combination of the old — outgoing boys’ basketball and baseball coaches Ken Eiswald and Matt Scott, and the new — first-year girls’ tennis coach Holly Porter.
While Porter’s team captured the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title in her first season, the awards to long-time mentors Eiswald and Scott were to honor all of their achievements over several years at Surry Central. Both men will continue to teach at the school, but decided that the time constrants involved with coaching were too much for them to continue.
Porter, a western North Carolina native who had been living in Arizona for several years, returned to her roots a year ago and accepted a position teaching and coaching at Central. Despite the loss of the team’s No. 1 seed to graduation, Porter was immediately impressed with the talent available to her, and was able to guide the Lady Eagles to their fourth straight Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title. Surry Central finished with an overall 12-5 record, losing in the 2A state playoffs to eventual state champion Lake Norman Charter.
She was the No. 1 women’s seed at Mars Hill College in the early 1990s and coached tennis at West Wilkes High School later in the decade. Her second Lady Eagle team will be without the services of its Nos. 1 and 2 singles players, but the other nine members of the squad will return, and Central should be a WPAC contender once again.
Eiswald had been contemplating retirement for over a year, but waited until his team’s final home game on Feb. 5 to make the announcement. His stepping down was announced after Surry Central’s seniors were honored on their Senior Night.
He might have reason to rue that choice for the rest of his life when the Golden Eagles fell behind by 26 points in the second quarter, but a furious rally had Central back into the game early in the second half, and the team pulled out a 69-66 win over Forbush in the last three minutes. The Eagles had a star-crossed season filled with tough losses, but what might have been the cruelest cut of all turned into, in his words, “a storybook ending.”
Eiswald coached Surry Central for 12 years, including eight as head varsity coach. His teams made the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs four times, and he was named WPAC Coach of the Year in 2014. His best team, however, came in 2012, when the Golden Eagles went 18-11 and reached the sectional finals before losing to eventual West champ Cuthbertson. Surry Central went a combined 6-1 against arch-rivals North Surry, East Surry and Mount Airy that season.
Scott waited until after the season was over to announce that he was stepping down. Like Eiswald, he was a former JV coach who assumed the reins of the varsity team eight years ago. During his tenure as head coach, the Golden Eagles won the WPAC title in 2010 and 2013, and reached the state 2A Final Four in the former season. However, his tenure was just as noteworthy for the massive upgrades in Surry Central’s baseball facilities as for the winning his teams did. At the time he took over, Central was honored with the Region 7 North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association Field of the Year award.
The 1999 Surry Central graduate has four young children and a fifth on the way. He decided that he needed to devote more time to his family, and passed the torch to current JV coach Seth Reece.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.