Donte’ Stewart brought the Ellicott football program back into the light - literally.
As the Thunderhawks’ coach for the last 11 years, Stewart saw the program come out of the dark, install its first stadium lights, and begin to take pride in their work on the field.
But now that his youngest son Chiante’ is set to graduate in 2018, Stewart resigned as coach, stating that he wants to have the time to watch his sons play football in college next season.
“I've spent my entire Ellicott career coaching other kids and I've really enjoyed it, but it's time to put mine first for once,” Stewart said in an email to The Gazette on Tuesday. “It's time for me to spend time with my family. I want to be able to go watch my boys play college football next year and not have to worry about missing high school games or practices.”
His oldest son JaVonte’ (Ellicott, class of 2015) and Chiante’ (class of 2018) are looking into playing college football together next season. JaVante’, who played at Western State but took a year off due to injury, was Stewart’s offensive coordinator in 2017.
“It’s been an up and down journey with the football team,” Stewart said. “We battled through a culture change for a long time, and we are finally getting the program back to winning, and back to the playoffs.”
Through 11 seasons Stewart compiled a 39-65 record and led the Thunderhawks to three state playoff appearances, ending a 12-year postseason drought. Ellicott averaged two wins per season prior to Stewart taking over.
“When I came in my first year it was difficult,” Stewart said. “We needed to change the culture. They started to take ownership of their losses, and really listened. We never had great numbers but we always had a good nucleus of players who were there putting in the work.”
Ellicott was 4-5 in 2017, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013. In Stewart’s last five years at the helm the program went 25-23.
Stewart said he will remain on staff with girls’ basketball team as an assistant coach, and is transitioning into a bigger role on the track team.