Anyone who watched Yorktown’s M.J. Stewart bowl over Coolidge in the first half of the Patriots’ 49-0 win Thursday night might find it hard to believe he’s committed to the University of North Carolina to play defensive back, not running back.
Stewart was downright dominant in the first two quarters in in the 17th-ranked Patriots’ season opener in Arlington. He rushed for 220 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns before Coach Bruce Hanson sent him to the safety of the bench for the second half.
It wasn’t that Stewart was making highlight-reel dodges around defenders, though sometimes he was. It wasn’t that he was overpowering would-be tacklers — though sometimes that happened, too.
But more often than not, Stewart was just a step faster, a pound (or ten) stronger, and a few notches better than everyone around him, circumstances that proved explosive when combined with the quickly tired legs of a Coolidge (0-1) team that began the night with just 29 players in uniform.
Asked what makes Stewart so productive, Hanson had no answer.
“I don’t know. He’s good, he’s going to be tough to stop all year.”
Stewart wouldn’t pinpoint a key to his success, either, shedding any credit after the game as he did tacklers during it.
“It’s always my offensive line, once they get me past the line of scrimmage, it’s not hard to do the rest from there,” he said. “The wide receivers did a great job of blocking, they gave me open holes.”
All told, the offense scored 46 points in the first half, as fullback Greg Dalzell caught a touchdown and ran for another, and his quarterback, Will Roebuck broke off a 60-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw late in the first half. With the first-team offense long gone in the second half, the Patriots (1-0) added three more points on a 44-yard field goal from Charlie Wall.
But the story of the game was Stewart, who answered any questions area teams may have had about his ability to gain yardage without his best friend and imposing blocker from last year, Arturo Brown, who graduated.
“It’s a great start,” Stewart said. “People are going to see this and think, ‘wow, Yorktown beat them 49-0, Yorktown’s probably a team to compete with.’ ”
Realistically, people are more likely going to be thinking, “Wow, UNC better think about putting that kid Stewart in the backfield.” But for now, he’s a Patriot, which is a scary thought for Yorktown’s National District foes.
“We’ve got a pretty good player in M.J., so he makes us good,” Hanson said. “I was actually kind of mad on the last series, we ran three times he only got about 10 yards.”