VAN - Van High's versatile senior back/receiver David Stewart will lead the Van High Bulldogs on the gridiron in 2019.
Stewart says he's been working on getting stronger and adding lean muscle to his 5-foot-9, 171-pound frame.
"Mostly strength," he said. "I've spent the summer in the weight room and trying to get into game shape and increase my stamina going into practices."
Interestingly, Stewart nearly became a Sherman Tidester. He played for the Seth Mountaineers as a youth, but moved to the Van area in middle school.
"We won four championships in a row there," he said. "I know all of those guys real well. That is when I got into football and really started liking it."
While Van hasn't named a quarterback to replace the graduated Gavin Smith, Stewart has confidence in his teammates.
"I'm not worried," Stewart said. "We have some options there with some guys who can get the ball to us. "
Van feasted on the edge last year, where Stewart could create with his quickness and speed.
Versus Valley (Fayette), Stewart reeled off a dazzling 84-yard run that saw him juke two defenders before outrunning the Greyhound defense to the end zone. He finished with 272 yards rushing that night with a trio of TDs.
The shifty back was second in the county in all purpose yards to only J.T. Hensley at Sherman, the Class A All State captain. Deductive reasoning suggests that Stewart is a player in Boone County to keep an eye on in 2019.
Stewart, a member of the CVN All-County team, also garnered recognition on the All-State squad. He said he'd like to make his senior year at Van a special one. He wants to play a sport at a small college once his prep days are through. He also excels as a hoopster for coach David Gogas, where he posted multiple 30-plus point games as a guard.
"I'm focusing on my senior year right now, but yeah, that is something I want to do," he said. "I prefer football, but basketball is a close second."
Stewart has an interest in welding as a trade and said he wants to explore that as an educational option, as well.
He said some of his best memories include the football field. A last second, 2-point conversion-inspired win over Meadow Bridge last season was a highlight. A bitterly cold night where the squad dropped a hard-fought playoff game at Cameron last season comes to mind.
The "Showdown for the Shovel" is a game that is on Stewart's mind this season. Sherman has retained the coveted coal shovel for two seasons and Van wants it back as the rivalry game returns to Hershel Jarrell Field this season.
"I want to beat Sherman," he said. "Beating them in basketball was pretty satisfying, but I want to beat them in football, too. We have to win that game."
Stewart realizes that his leadership role must increase as a senior with a host of underclassmen on the roster.
"I'm pretty verbal and I like to lead by example and how hard I play, I guess," he said.
Stewart's coach, Steve "Foot" Price agrees with that assessment from his senior.
"He hates to lose and he's one of the most competitive kids I've ever coached," he said. "He has all of the skills and natural talent you could ask for. But I think it's his desire to win that pushes it over the top. He just refuses to lose and that is a quality you can't teach or coach."
Van kicks off their season at Meadow Bridge on Aug. 30.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-307-2402.