Senior night at Magnolia High School will be extra-special this year thanks to the dedication of Bill Stewart Memorial Stadium Friday at Alumni Field.
Special guest speaker will be former Mountaineer player Owen Schmitt and Blaine Stewart, the son of the late Bill Stewart. Karen Stewart, Bill Stewart's "bride", will also be in attendance.
MHS Principal Kathi Schmalz stated the stadium would be dedicated during the game's halftime, when a huge sign on Magnolia's press box will be unveiled.
During pre-game ceremonies, senior band members and football players will be recognized at about 6:50 p.m.
Another special part of the event will be a performance by the MHS band that will feature music the West Virginia University band has given to Magnolia. It is not typically ever shared with other bands. However, interestingly enough, MHS Band Director Thomas Myers was once part of The Pride of West Virginia and was at the Fiesta Bowl with Coach Stewart.
Schmalz stated that a plaque would also be presented to Karen Stewart, in honor of the stadium's dedication to "our hometown hero," as Schmalz said.
Bill Stewart, the former WVU Head Football Coach and MHS graduate died at the age of 59 of an apparent heart attack on May 21, 2012, while golfing at Stonewall Jackson Resort. The loss sent shock waves throughout the community, state, and throughout the college football world. The coach who was often referred to as the nicest, most caring and hospitable in the business, was gone.
Alumni Field is where Bill Stewart first donned the gold and blue and began a love affair with football. It was in that place, as Stewart often retold, where he proposed to his bride, Karen-the love of his life.
Stewart joined the Mountaineers in 2000 and served as interim coach after the abrupt departure of Rich Rodriguez at the end of the 2007 football season. Stewart coached that team to a 48-28 victory in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners, ranked third that year. The win was a great gridiron and moral success. During the victory celebration Quarterback Pat White declared that Stewart should be their next head coach.
The next morning that was the case as then Governor Manchin announced his appointment in a press conference from Phoenix, Ariz.
He followed up the Oklahoma victory with three consecutive nine-win seasons, including trips to the Meineke Car Care, Gator, and Champs Sports bowls. Stewart's nine victories in 2008 represented the most ever by a first-year Mountaineer coach, and his 28-12 career mark included a .700 winning percentage that ranks fifth among all WVU grid coaches.
Stewart coached quarterback White, considered one of the greatest players in school history; 14 of his West Virginia players were drafted by NFL teams; and he led two Mountaineer squads to Top 25 finishes in 2008 and 2009.