By CHRIS HOBBS
CATAWBA – There are so many things other than football that draw Trent Lowman’s interest – his family foremost among them – that he eventually knew the change he was about to make was the right one.
Since his freshman year at Bandys High, he had spent time in 14 of the last 21 years or so in a Trojans football uniform or coaching someone who was in one, and he grew up with hundreds of days of his youth spent in the stadium that now carries the name of his father, Randy.
But Lowman, 35, resigned this week and on Thursday was named the new head football coach at East Surry, a 1A football power.
“I was not trying to leave but more or less looking at options,” said Lowman, who coached Bandys for five seasons (23-35 record) since replacing his retiring dad as head coach in 2013.
He was introduced at East Surry on Thursday and begins a new chapter of his life and coaching career in Pilot Mountain on Monday, teaching physical education and replacing a local legend in David Diamont.
Lowman debuts as East Surry’s head coach on Aug. 17 at East Wilkes.
A good feeling
Once he visited East Surry and began to get a feel for the community and the school, he noticed things that fit into the kind of life and lifestyle he and his wife of eight years, Heather, and their two young daughters enjoy. The Lowmans especially enjoy doing things together outside, like hiking or camping or adventurous type things.
“We’re moving to a place we like,” Lowman said of that appeal he noted once he had visited with East Surry officials. “People grow and people change, and I felt like it was an opportunity we needed to take. We’re taking a leap of faith by leaving home.
“I (once) saw a quote … it basically said ‘Comfort doesn’t create a lot of growth.’ If you never grow … you gotta get out of your comfort zones …
“It’s in a small town and community and it’s really tight knit. There were just a lot of things that appealed to me and my wife and kids.
“It’s Mayberry … and my girls love Andy Griffith. There’s nothing (elsewhere) with that pace of life … and we kinda enjoy that.”
Lowman said he spoke briefly with his dad as he began to consider the East Surry job, where he interviewed twice, and then made a decision to take on a new challenge.
“Dad’s a man of few words,” Lowman said. “He said … if you feel it is right, roll with it.”
As he heads to do so, Lowman said he has so many memories of growing up around Bandys football. His dad was part of the program for nearly 45 years – as first a player and then an assistant and then head coach for 26 years – and Trent Lowman followed in the same path. Other than his years in college and three years as an assistant coach at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Trent Lowman played, coached or spent a large amount of his life at 5040 East Bandys Cross Road.
“It was a great ride, a fun ride,” said Lowman, who noted his decision to leave was tough especially because of the relationships he built with his coaching staff (which includes his brother, Kyle, and several other former Bandys players).
“It made it (the decision) … more emotional,” Lowman said. “Twenty years ago to now has changed but we (coaches) were still able to connect emotionally – we knew what they were feeling – when we played the Maidens and the Newton-Conovers.”
What’s just ahead
The Lowmans will move to the East Surry area once their house sells in Hickory, and Heather Lowman, an elementary school teacher, will also work in the school system there.
Lowman is confident he can step into an already strong program, much like he did at Bandys, and make good things happen.
East Surry went 9-5 and to the third round of the state 1A playoffs last season before falling to Murphy. In the four years before that, the Cardinals were 11-3, 10-2, 13-1 and 9-4.
Said Lowman: “I knew East Surry had always been a good program, that I’m not going into a program where you have to change and rebuild. They have some very talented kids there right now.
“There’s a comfort in that they are an established program that always wants to be good. They have done that work. Honestly, to be in a part of that was intriguing and as encouraging as anything.”
Lowman said the middle school or other football programs that feed into East Surry are sound.
“We will continue to be state contenders every year or should be,” he said.
His time at Bandys
After playing a bit on the 1997 varsity team at Bandys (he had one rush for a 2-yard loss and threw no passes) and sparingly on the 1998 team (four rushes, three passes), Lowman was the Trojans’ starting quarterback in 1999 and 2000 when they went 10-2 and 6-5, respectively.
As a junior, he completed 99 of 193 passes for 1,607 yards with six rushing touchdowns and 23 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions. The Trojans fell in the first round, losing 20-17 at Mountain Heritage.
As a senior, Lowman completed 110 of 223 passes for 1,674 yards and 19 TDs to finish with 3,329 career passing yards – a school record at the time – and 42 passing TDs. Bandys did not reach the state playoffs that season.
Bandys made the state playoffs in Lowman’s first two seasons as head coach, losing in the first round each time, and then returned to the postseason last year after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
“We’ve had the highs and the lows in life and I’ve been blessed to be a part of it,” Lowman said, referencing to his time as a player and a coach at his alma mater.
His best season record-wise was 2014, when he guided an 8-4 team that overcame injuries to reach the state playoffs.
During that season, the Trojans lost five players to season-ending injuries and four of those started on both sides of the ball. They then lost two defensive linemen, one going into their first-round playoff game with R-S Central (they lost 29-26) and one during that game.
Next for Bandys
Bandys officials said they will begin a search for a new head football coach immediately, with athletic director Brandon Harbinson and Principal Angela Williams forming a committee to review candidates before they decide on a name to send to the Catawba County Schools Board of Education.
That’s the normal process once a candidate is selected, with the board then voting on approval of a teaching contract for the new head football coach. Coaching assignments are made by principals in the school system once the board has signed off on an offer of employment.
Applicants should do so through the school system website and also send a resume and cover letter to Williams at Angela_Williams@catawbaschools.net.
Harbinson indicated all current Bandys assitants – Jim (Goody) Goodwin, Kyle Lowman, Eric McCombs, Frank Porter, Jason Barnes, Bill Vaughan, Stan Hojnacki and Brian Ballard – are expected back next season.
On Wednesday, Harbinson said a decision will be made soon on who will coordinate the football program while the coaching search is ongoing. That person will do so until a candidate is selected.
Lowman said he expects the Trojans to have a good year in 2018.
“This year was a very strong junior class,” he said. “They have seniors that are one of the physically strongest classes in my 10 years there.
“There are good kids in the program. I think Bandys is getting ready to rise back up. That talent and the numbers (of players) is coming back… from 55 to 60 out up now to 80 (varsity, junior varsity).”
The expectations that came with going to a state championship game three times (1996, 2002, 2003) changed Bandys football forever, Lowman said.
“It did,” he said. “You know, it got to a point when we didn’t expect anything but to be practicing on Thanksgiving Day and going to a state championship.
“For those years, it was kind of like if we didn’t win 13 or 14 games, we didn’t do a good job.”