May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Offensive coordinator Mike Stewart named interim football coach at Northwood

Mike Stewart was named interim head football coach at Northwood Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Northwood athletics)

Northwood High School officials announced Tuesday afternoon that Mike Stewart, the team’s offensive coordinator, will be the interim varsity football coach for the upcoming season which is scheduled to begin in January.

“We are extremely excited and privileged to have Mike step into this role and provide some stability during this time of transition,” said Brandon Emery, co-athletic director at Northwood in an email to OC Sports Zone.

Emery said school officials and Stewart will discuss at the end of the upcoming season on whether to remove the interim title.

Stewart was introduced in a brief meeting with Northwood football players Tuesday. He replaces Paige Nobles, who was informed last week by school officials he would not be retained for his second year as coach after leading the Timberwolves to an 8-3 record.

Nobles named Stewart, a full-time staff member at Northwood, as offensive coordinator in August. Stewart has been at Northwood for 11 years and on the football staff for nine years. He was also one of the lead assistants for former basketball coach Tim O’Brien and has been a track and field assistant coach.

Stewart, who will continue to work in the Northwood counseling department, said he was looking forward to being the new coach.

“My reaction is one of real excitement and I told the kids this today when we met,” Stewart said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “There are three reasons why I’m super excited about it.

“Number one, I was excited that our administration was confident enough in me and confident enough in our staff that I could put together and that they were so supportive of. Number two is the staff, I’m really excited about working with these individuals. They’re very high quality as many of the kids already know because there are a lot of people coming back. But there are some new additions also.

“And number three, I told the kids I was excited to be able to work with them because I think we have a really, really good group of kids and we have the potential to maybe do some nice things.”

Stewart said that current defensive coaches J.C. Clarke and Dean Toohey will return along with Matt Ray (offensive line) and Dave Harper (defensive line and special teams). Mickey Dickson (defensive backs and running backs) and Phil Roh (offensive coordinator) are two new additions. Dickson is a science teacher at Northwood who has had coaching experience and Roh was a former head coach with the Timberwolves.

Stewart indicated he’s comfortable with the interim title for now saying it’s a “win-win” for all involved.

“I think it gives both parties flexibility,” he said. “There is no ego involved on my part. Because of the timing and they wanted a true transition for the kids and the families, it just seems to make sense. It seemed to be the smart thing to do. What has happened so far, I’m extremely pleased and the support from the Northwood administration has been amazing.”

Northwood football boosters were also notified of the decision to bring Stewart in as interim coach in an email from administrators:

“We recognize that this has been an uncertain weekend for our NHS football community. Transitions are difficult, especially during these times. As stated in the previous email, the NHS administration and athletics department remain committed to ensuring our students athletes have the best possible experience. We are proud to announce that Mike Stewart will step in as the interim head football coach at Northwood High School for the 2020-2021 season. 

“Coach Stewart brings a wealth of coaching experience and proven dedication to NHS and our athletics programs, but most importantly, he exemplifies an iron-clad commitment to our student athletes. In that way, we feel confident that he is the right person to lead this program forward. Coach Stewart was also recently named as Northwood’s representative for OC Athletics Directors Association ‘Coach of Character’ award for 2020.

“We sincerely appreciate your patience and trust during this process. We look forward to partnering with you and the rest of the school community in full support of our collective vision for the NHS football program. Members of the varsity team were the first to hear the news this afternoon in their team meeting.”

Stewart lives in Irvine with his wife Monica and has two sons, Michael Jr. and Tyler.

Stewart, 59, will become the fifth person to assume head coaching duties at Northwood since 2014.

Dean Toohey took over for Rick Curtis, the Timberwolves’ first coach, in 2014 and coached through 2015 before resigning. Toohey continued to be an assistant coach at Northwood.

Roh then coached for one year before resigning after the 2016 season to spend more time with his family. Then Pete Mitchell coached the Timberwolves in 2017 and 2018 before stepping down. Nobles was named to replace him.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com