CONYERS -- The winningest head girls soccer coach in any four-year stretch in Rockdale County High School history is leaving.
After spending the past four years as the Bulldogs' head girls soccer coach, Erwin Equihua announced his resignation at the conclusion of the 2019 school year after accepting a head coaching position at South Gwinnett.
Equihua posted a career 50-22-2 record at Rockdale County, a four-year stretch that featured four winning seasons, four trips to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs and a 2019 Region 8 championship. He will replace Mandy Gartman, who coached the Comets to a 6-10 record in her only season at the helm.
The decision to leave a place he has called home for the past four years was made in efforts to advance in his career, both as a coach and as an educator.
"There are new opportunities in Gwinnett County," Equihua said. "With wanting to raise a family, it's going to help, a lot. It is hard leaving Rockdale because it's a program that I started four years ago. But the girls understood that for me to grow my family, I have to make this move."
Equihua will serve as South Gwinnett's department chair for Spanish, a position he said he could not turn down.
"South Gwinnett gives me a better opportunity for me to grow as an educator more than just coaching itself," Equihua said. "On the coaching side, South Gwinnett is excited with all of the accomplishments we were able to have at Rockdale. It's just a win-win situation."
South Gwinnett will mark the third high school Equihua has coached and taught at. Prior to Rockdale County, Equihua coached at Morrow High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
"It's always exciting," Equihua said. "For whatever reason, I like starting and watching a program grow from the bottom to the top. I always put in a vision and have to let the team and the community believe in that vision. From that, you can accomplish a lot. This will be the third school that I have worked at will hopefully be the third school that I can help make history with."
With a great support system backing him at Rockdale County, he said he hopes to find the same with South Gwinnett.
"It helps a lot when you have support," Equihua said. "Hopefully I have the same support as I did at Rockdale. This was a great place. From the parents to the athletes and our Athletic Director Chad Suddeth, they were all supporting us the entire time."
In Equihua's tenure, he helped the Bulldogs to their first playoff win since 2006. He reached that feat with a victory over Lakeside-Dekalb in 2018. This past season, Equihua and the Bulldogs won their first region championship since 2004. They also went on to defeat Forsyth Central in the first round of the playoffs.
"I'm proud of everything that we were able to accomplish," Eqhihua said. "Just how the community feels about us and some of my co-workers talking to me on my last day, letting me know that I had a big influence on the school feels really good. Not only on the soccer field but as a teacher."
I can look back and say that I left in good terms and that I left something there for people to remember. That's the main thing. I always believe that once you're gone, if you did something good, they can never take that back."
Aside from the trophies and history he and the Bulldogs were able make, Equihua said his time spent at practice and the relationships he was able to build his players and their parents will be some of his fondest memories of coaching at Rockdale.
"Now that I can sit down and really think back on it, I'm really going to miss a lot of the parents that were there supporting me," Equihua said. "I'm definitely going to cherish those days at practice. Outside of working them hard, we had those days where we laughed and enjoyed the passion that they had playing soccer.
One of my mentors told me that if you ever lose the passion for something, you need to stop doing it. I can tell you that these girls had the passion and there is a great group of girls that will be back next year. They're like a family."
Equihua thanked Suddeth for his support over the last three years. Equihua coached one year against Suddeth after the Bulldogs' AD ended his tenure as the head girls soccer coach at Heritage in 2016.
Getting an opportunity to defeat Suddeth was a goal he always had, but never got to achieve, he said jokingly.
"One of my goals that I will never accomplish, because he became my AD, was to try and beat him while he was at Heritage," Equihua said. "That was one of my main goals that I set because he's a guy that has a lot of history when it comes to soccer in Rockdale County."
When he became my AD, it was a bittersweet moment. One, it was bad because I wouldn't be able to reach my goal where hopefully one day I could beat him. But it was sweet because with him being soccer coach, there was a lot of times where I could go into his office and give some guidance from the experience that he's had. That part was great."
Equihua and the Bulldogs went on to beat Heritage in both 2018 and 2019, marking the first time in school history that the Bulldogs had defeated the rival Patriots in back-to-back seasons.