Wasco Football_11

Head coach Rick Stewart gives direction to Wasco players during August practice. Stewart will step down as head coach of the Tigers after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Wasco High School football coach Rick Stewart is stepping down from his position after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Stewart said the leukemia is not life-threatening and that doctors told him he has a 95 percent chance of surviving.

Stewart said he was diagnosed on Aug. 22 but wanted to coach at Wasco and his son, Jonathan, who’s a senior quarterback.

Ultimately, however, Stewart said it became too much trying to coach a high school football program while staying focused on his personal health.

“I just wasn’t giving the boys 100 percent of what they needed,” he said. “I’ve been tired, low energy. It’s about the kids, and I didn’t think I was giving them enough.”

Stewart, 50, said the diagnosis has provided him with a greater perspective.

“I’m a very religious person,” he said. “I believe that there’s a reason God is putting me through this. I’ll go through this journey.”

Stewart said defensive assistant Chad Martinez will take over as interim head coach of the Tigers.

Stewart is a first-year coach at Wasco, yet has a long career history. He won 36 games in four years at Porterville, followed by stints in Fresno and at Delano before heading to Wasco this offseason.

He took over in Wasco for the departed Mike Rowland. While Stewart kept the wing-T offense in place, he also implemented a pistol-formation with more downfield passing.

Upon getting the job, Stewart spoke boldly of a “10-year plan” he envisioned as head coach at the school.

On Thursday, he said he was unsure if he would return to coaching and, if he did, it likely wouldn’t be for a couple years.

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