CLOSER LOOK: Rancho Verde’s E.J. Stewart

Take a closer look at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde senior QB E.J. Stewart and you’ll see a kid who might have the strongest arm in this year’s class of Inland area quarterbacks.

Stewart’s arm is so mighty he routinely gets away with throwing off his back foot.

His release is so tight nearly every ball is a spiral, and if he misses a receiver it’s because he overthrows it.

He can whip it, sling it and fit it into impossibly tight windows.

It’s a weapon which creates thunder and delivers lightning.

Mostly a 6-foot-2 mop of strawberry blond hair, Stewart passed for 36 TDs and 3,000 yards in 2015 — his first varsity season — but had been inconsistent to start ’16. He tossed four TDs in Week 1 before getting intercepted three times in Week 2.

A strong performance (15-for-22, 234 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) in a victory over Perris Citrus Hill in Week 3 was followed with a bye in Week 4.

So naturally Stewart was sharp despite the week off, passing for touchdowns on the Mustangs’ first two drives and finishing 23-for-35 with three TDs and a season-high 324 yards in a 34-10 victory over Riverside King on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

We caught up with him afterward.

InlandFieldhouse.com: Was it important to get off to a fast start tonight?
E.J. Stewart: “It was really important because starting off fast is something we really try to focus on early in the year, but now we’re starting to click and it was great to see. It was a good feeling.”

InlandFieldhouse.com: How do you assess your performance?
ES: “I did some things really well and there’s some things, obviously, that I need to work on. I’m happy with it, but I’m really excited as well because I know there’s a lot of things I get to improve on.”

InlandFieldhouse.com: Are your coaches cool with you throwing off your back foot?
ES: “That’s something we’ve tried to correct. I’ve had the problem since last year. I’ve started to get better, but it’s definitely something that’s come up and I can do better with.”

InlandFieldhouse.com: What are the key to the league season now?
ES: “Just stay calm. Be a leader to the team. We have so many athletes around us they don’t really need me to make plays. We need them to make plays and me to lead.”

InlandFieldhouse.com: How are you able to use all those weapons?
ES: “My main two are Bryan Thompson and Tyler Kennedy. Tyler’s obviously a track kid – real fast. Bryan’s just a freak of nature. Marlon (Moorer) helps out, too, in the run game. The main thing we had to do, because we have injuries, so we tailor our plays to what our strengths were.”

InlandFieldhouse.com: Can you think much yet about football after this season?
ES: “Right now I’m just trying to focus on the last half of my senior season. Whatever happens after this I’m going to be happy with it. Right now my main focus is on trying to win games for this team.”

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