Versatile Stewart did it all for Gators on way to Player of the Year award

Published 8:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Vicksburg Gators had no shortage of candidates for the 2018 Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year award.

Sophomore quarterback Levi Wyatt threw for 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns. Senior receiver Tyrese Wolfe caught 47 passes for 722 yards and five touchdowns, while also contributing a number of exciting plays on special teams. Another sophomore, running back Cedric Phillips, showed great potential as a runner and receiver.

None of them, however, were as vital to an offense that averaged nearly 30 points per game as running back Tacarie Stewart.

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Stewart didn’t lead Warren County in rushing yards or touchdowns, but he was the Gators’ go-to guy whenever he was called upon. The senior was a threat running or catching the ball, and even played quarterback when Wyatt was hurt. His versatility and production — 1,202 total yards and 13 touchdowns — made him the choice as the Post’s Player of the Year.

“It’s a big honor to get it, because of all the stuff that happened. I’m just happy to be able to go out and play football again and do what I love,” Stewart said.

What “happened” was Stewart missing his junior season because he was academically ineligible. He said the year away made him realize how much he enjoyed football, and also made him hungry to succeed in his final high school season.

“It hurt. It made me come back my senior year stronger,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Stewart to show what he could do. Early in the spring jamboree against Scott Central — the 2018 Class 2A state champion — he broke off a 96-yard touchdown run that showcased his speed, and in the second game he had a short touchdown run against Pelahatchie that showed his toughness and power.

“That was just a moment that let people know that I’m back and this is what I was going to do,” Stewart said of the 96-yard run.

Once the regular season started, he emerged as a total threat. In a 35-6 loss to Warren Central he had 178 total yards — 106 rushing and 72 receiving — and a touchdown. He ran for 157 yards and two TDs and added another receiving touchdown two weeks later against Columbus.

By the end of the season, Stewart had scored in every game except two — a shutout loss to Clinton in the opener and against Ridgeland, when he did not play at all because of an injury. He finished with 817 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, and 28 receptions for 385 yards and five TDs.

Stewart tied Wolfe for the team lead in touchdown receptions, and was third in both receptions and receiving yards.

The only game in which Stewart didn’t catch a pass was a 42-34 loss to Canton. Because of an injury to Wyatt, he had to play quarterback. Stewart was 3-of-5 passing for 72 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 173 yards and three scores while mostly taking snaps in the wildcat formation.

Stewart credited his offensive linemen for his success.

“It was a good pleasure knowing we could depend on our offensive linemen to get the job done,” Stewart said. “I think I did a good job, but I wouldn’t have done a good job if my O-line didn’t produce. They produced this year.”

So did Stewart. His stats didn’t translate into a lot of team success — the Gators finished 3-7 and missed the playoffs — but he certainly did his part to keep the team’s high-powered offense humming. No matter what his part entailed.

“I just had the mindset just to do it. I knew I was going to have to carry the load, so if that’s what I’ve got to do then I’m going to step up and do it,” Stewart said. “I always had the courage to step up, and this was my senior year so I was like, ‘I’ve got to step up now.’”

Vicksburg Post Offensive Players of the Year
2018 – Tacarie Stewart, RB, Vicksburg
2017 – Fred Barnum, Jr., QB, Warren Central
2016 – Raheam Moore, WR, Vicksburg
2015 – DeMichael Harris, RB, St. Aloysius
2014 – Connor Smith, QB, St. Aloysius
DeMichael Harris, RB, St. Aloysius
2013 – Connor Smith, QB, St. Aloysius
2012 – Peter Harris, RB, Porters Chapel
2011 – Cameron Cooksey, QB, Vicksburg
A.J. Stamps, WR, Vicksburg
2010 – Chris Marshall, WR, Porters Chapel
2009 – Tim Jones, RB, Warren Central
2008 – Clayton Holmes, QB, Porters Chapel
2007 – Austin Barber, RB, Porters Chapel
2006 – Hayden Hales, QB, Porters Chapel
2005 – Chris Mixon, RB, Porters Chapel
2004 – Larry Warner, RB, Warren Central
2003 – Larry Warner, RB, Warren Central
2002 – Richmond Fields, RB, Warren Central
2001 – J.J. Brown/Phelan Gray, RB, Vicksburg
2000 – J.J. Brown, RB, Vicksburg
1999 – Caris London, RB, Vicksburg
1998 – Thomas McKnight, RB, Vicksburg
1997 – Josh Morgan, QB, Warren Central
1996 – Ben Jernigan, QB, Porters Chapel
1995 – Stacy Williams, RB, St. Aloysius
1994 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central
1993 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central
Jamaal Williams, RB, St. Aloysius
1992 – Brian Darden, RB, Warren Central
1991 – Alfred Daniels, RB, Vicksburg
1990 – Damian McClelland, RB, Vicksburg
1989 – Larry Carter, RB, Warren Central
1988 – Kenny Johnson, RB, Warren Central
1987 – John Kavanaugh, RB, St. Aloysius

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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