CONYERS - This fall, the Heritage boys soccer team faced a bit of a dilemma.
Upon hearing the news that head coach Mike Beshiri was being deployed to Iraq, a vacancy was left that needed filling.
Enter Brandon Stewart.
Stewart, a 1997 Heritage graduate and soccer standout himself, eagerly accepted the role to lead the Patriots. A perfect fit considering he has been associated with the school in some manner for more than 20 years.
"It is a great honor to be considered for this position, and a great personal honor to fill in for Mike as he serves our country," Stewart said. "This honor fails to compare in importance to what Mike is doing serving our country."
Fortunately for the Patriots, the team did not have to look very far to replace Beshiri, whose last day at Heritage was Nov. 11.
Although it is his first year at Heritage, Stewart, a special-education teacher, was previously the Heritage junior varsity boys coach.
During his childhood years, Stewart - whose grandmother used to teach at Heritage - grew up roaming the hallways, absorbing everything regarding the soccer team. He was even the ball boy during the late 1980s when his uncle played for the Patriots.
As a midfielder for coach Bob Rumble in the mid-1990s, Stewart helped the team reach the playoffs all three years he donned the uniform.
Stewart also becomes the first ex-player to head the program.
"I'm looking forward to implementing my philosophy into the current team to aid the foundation that Mike has provided these past several years," he said. "I look forward to mold and shape a team with diversity of culture and skill levels, and focus our attention on the teams' goals rather than individual accomplishments."
Based on his abilities on the soccer field, Stewart extended his athletic career at Berry College. Upon graduating he joined the staff of Rockdale Youth Soccer Association Sporting FC and has been the coach of academy teams all the way up through under-18 for both the girls and boys programs.
"I feel this has provided a great wealth of knowledge in handling a variety of situations between player personnel," he said. "My number one goal is to uphold the standard of the Heritage soccer program."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.