SOUTHERN PINES — In addition to his duties as athletic director, Jeff Hewitt is also the baseball coach at Pinecrest High School.
As such, he knows a heavy hitter when he sees one.
That’s why he was drawn to Nick Eddins as he conducted his search to fill the Patriots’ vacant football coaching position.
“We had five unbelievable candidates that we interviewed, but it quickly became known to us that Nick was the guy,” Hewitt said. “I knew we’d hit a home run with hiring and getting him. I knew it was a grand slam. In my opinion, we got one of the best coaches in the state of North Carolina.”
Eddins comes to Pinecrest from Crest High School in Cleveland County, where he led the Chargers to a 43-15 record and spot in the 3A state playoffs in each of his five seasons. His team won the Big South 3A Conference championship and advanced to the West Region semifinals last season while he earned conference Coach of the Year honors.
Including Eddins’ previous six-year tenure at West Montgomery High, his career record as a head coach is an impressive 114-30.
As gaudy as those numbers might be, Hewitt said he’d already had his eye on Eddins long before he picked his resume out of the large stack he received from applicants seeking the job.
“Nick was the JV baseball coach at Richmond County when I first came to Pinecrest and I could see that he was a good young coach,” Hewitt said. “We followed him there, where he was also their strength coach, and then when he moved over to West Montgomery we were all pulling for him and he did a heck of a job there.”
For Eddins, the move to Pinecrest represents a homecoming of sorts. Not only did he begin his career at Richmond, but he grew up in nearby Anson County. His parents still live there.
“Coming from Crest, which is on the other side of Charlotte, this is a move that will get me a little bit closer to my family,” he said. “I wasn’t looking to leave Crest. I worked for and with a lot of great people there, but when the Pinecrest opportunity came open it was too good to turn down.”
Geography isn’t the only reason the Pinecrest job was attractive to him.
The Patriots have become one of the most consistent programs in the Eastern half of the state over the past decade, putting together nine straight winning seasons and earning double-digit victories four times.
The school’s commitment to football was recently enhanced by improvements to its stadium, including the addition of a new Jumbotron scoreboard.
“Just seeing the support that Pinecrest gets from the administration and the community, and the number of players they’ve gotten out to participate was a big attraction for me to take over a program like that,” he said. “They have a great tradition there.”
Eddins is no stranger to taking over a team with a winning tradition and high expectations. Crest is a traditional state powerhouse with six state championships to its credit. His .716 winning percentage ranks third in school history.
The new coach, who arrived in Moore County last week and immediately began preparations for the 2022 season this fall, said his experience at Crest will help as inherits the reins of another established program.
“In a lot of ways they’re very similar jobs, trying to take a great program and keep it at the top,” Eddins said. “We were able to do that at Crest. We didn’t quite win a state championship as they had in the past — those are hard to come by — but we came close. Like Crest, Pinecrest is one of the best programs in the state.”
It hasn’t always been that way.
In 2006, the football program was nearly disbanded during the season because of a lack of participation. The Patriots finished 0-11 that season after winning just one game in each of the previous two years.
The situation improved dramatically after Chris Metzger was hired in 2007.
Metzger left Pinecrest in 2020 to take the job as director of football for Montgomery County. Because of the timing of his move and the NC High School Athletic Association’s decision to play a spring season, wrestling coach Bob Curtin served as interim coach until a permanent successor could be hired.
“We were blessed to get Chris and he turned the program around. It was in a bad state, but he set the stage for us to go out and look for the best,” Hewitt said. “When you look at Nick and what he has done and what he still has the hunger to do, that’s where our program is.
“There’s no doubt about it that we’re ready to take this thing to a whole other level. I feel like our program can be a top five program in the East every year, and with Nick Eddins, we’re going to be right there.”