Eastern Alamance head lacrosse coach and football offensive coordinator Tony Aguilar is leaving the Eagles to take the head football coaching job at nearby Eastern Guilford High School in Gibsonville.
Aguilar announced his decision to the Eagles football players in an emotional meeting the afternoon of Wednesday, March 20 at the school.
“Honestly, I knew it was going to be tough (telling the EAHS players). But when you walk into the room and they’re all staring at you - I had a speech prepared, and I probably got through one word and I started crying like a baby. I had to have somebody else read it for me,” Aguilar said the following day. “I look over and (rising senior quarterback) Austin Bryant is crying, and (rising senior running back/defensive back) Elijah Burnette is crying. It was extremely difficult. A tough day.”
“I’ve been around these kids since they were in the (Mebane Parks and) rec department,” Aguilar added. “I’ve coached their older brothers and sisters. It was extremely tough. But I got to end it on a good note by talking to the Eastern Guilford players.”
Aguilar is leaving Eastern High after 20 years with the Eagles for his first head football coaching opportunity.
Eastern Guilford offers Aguilar the chance to take the helm of a program that has gone 37-7 over the past three seasons. As recently as 2016, the Wildcats played in the NCHSAA 3AA state championship game.
This past season, the Wildcats went 10-3 under head coach Joe Glass, who left EGHS in late January to become the head coach at Lincolnton High School. Gibsonville and Whitsett, similar to Mebane, is a growing area, and the Wildcats will offer up plenty of talent to Aguilar.
An important factor in Aguilar’s decision was a head coaching opportunity that would allow him to stay in the Mebane area without having to move.
“I wasn’t really looking. I’ve turned down several jobs - one really big one. I would have had to move to go to that one. The timing wasn’t right,” he said. “Eastern Guilford has the same kind of feel as Mebane. Great community. Very supportive of the school. Great tradition. It just seemed like a good fit.”
“Coach Ag has been a fixture at EA for the past 20 years,” Eastern High head football coach John Kirby said. “His enthusiasm and energy that he brings to the game will be missed. It is bitter and sweet. I'm very proud of him and know that he will do a great job. I'm sure on Friday nights, that will be one of the first scores that we look for.”
Aguilar arrived at EAHS and has served as an assistant football coach with the Eagles since 1998.
“In 1998, Coach Kirby took a chance on me, and I’ve been there ever since. He gave me a hat, a T-shirt, and a pair of shorts, and I was sold from Day One,” Aguilar said. “We’ve had a great, great run. When I got there, they won two conference championships back-to-back, and I thought I’d struck a gold mine. Then we had a season where we went winless, and I was like what am I doing here? We’ve just been hot ever since.”
Aguilar has been Eastern High’s offensive coordinator since 2004, helping build the Eagles up from a winless team that first season to a perennial state championship contender with two NCHSAA 3A state championship game appearances. He credits Kirby for giving him the freedom to run the Eastern High offense his own way.
“He’s let me coach the offense,” Aguilar said of Kirby. “He’s given me full rein for many, many years. He’ll throw a suggestion out there every once in a while, but for the most part, he’s let me and the other offensive staff run it. Same thing with (EAHS defensive coordinator) Coach (Patrick) Stokes. He gives us all freedom to do what we do, which is amazing. Not many head coaches are like that.”
Aguilar has mentored numerous Eagles footballs standouts who went on to college, including four players who have gone on to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference - brothers Ali and John Lamot (Wake Forest and Boston College), Jonah Melton (North Carolina), and Gabriel Gonzalez (N.C. State).
“I think we’ve been in the third round - (practicing on) Thanksgiving Day, 10 out of the last 12 or 13 years. Played for two state championships. Played for a few Regional championships. We’ve put a lot of kids in college,” Aguilar said.
In addition, Aguilar built Eastern Alamance’s lacrosse program from scratch back in 2011, and has turned it into a consistent playoff program and one of the strongest teams in the region. Aguilar will finish out the current lacrosse season with the Eagles while he begins his transition with Eastern Guilford, but does not plan on coaching lacrosse at Eastern Guilford.
While Aguilar plans to taking many elements of the Eastern Alamance program over to Gibsonville, the biggest feature of the Eagles that he hopes to implement with the Wildcats is the sense of camaraderie and family that permeates throughout EAHS.
“The best thing I can say (about Eastern Alamance) is the relationships I’ve been able to build with the community and the school. They’ve welcomed our family and treated us well for the most part. It’s just been a great ride. I respect that program very much, and obviously think the world of Coach Kirby,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things I’m going to take over there from him (Kirby). The first thing is the family atmosphere he’s created,” Aguilar continued. “The family he’s built - the family atmosphere is huge. He’s incorporated a lot of faith into it. The way he communicates with the players and the coaches and the people, it’s just something I’ll definitely learn from him, and value that he’s instilled that in me.”