Steven Doldy in action against Rancocas Valley last season. (Photo by Mike Schwartz Photography/mikeschwartz.photo.)

Steven Doldy loves playing free safety for the Hopewell Valley Central High football team, as it’s good preparation for his future.

“You’re like the commander of the entire defense,” the senior said. “You see everything and you’re basically the quarterback of the defense.”

Being a commander is a career goal for Doldy, as he is looking to follow former teammates Chris Pham (Navy) and Jack Demareski (Merchant Marine Academy) to a military academy. Doldy has visited West Point, Annapolis, Air Force and MMA, and seems to be leaning toward Army. He is well aware the Cadets have won the last two Army-Navy games, having sat in the raging snowstorm at Lincoln Financial Field last December.

“I had to move seats,” he said with a laugh. “I was right in the snow so I moved under the roof.”

His desire to be an officer goes beyond attending traditional gridiron clashes, however. As a kid he admired his grandfather, who was in the Army Air Corps.

“As I got older and I started to understand a little more, I think it’s a great path for me and a great path for my future,” Doldy said. “I just like the military lifestyle and I think it would keep me on track a lot more than if I attended a regular college. I don’t want to get too off course.”

Bulldogs coach Dave Caldwell — who is Pham’s father — says Doldy has all the qualifications that make a good military leader.

“He’s focused, intelligent,” Caldwell said. “His work ethic just makes coaching him easy. He understands the offense and defense, understands the idea of team-first and accomplishing team goals, about being a leader, about commitment, about being there on time and doing the extra. He’s a fantastic young man, a model student-athlete.”

And a model all-around athlete, as Doldy also plays ice hockey and lacrosse, with the latter being the sport he hopes to play in college. While it’s in vogue to focus on one sport year-round, more and more coaches seem to prefer a versatile kid.

“I was told by a college coach that was recruiting me for lacrosse, that me playing three different sports was very important and would make me a lot better athlete when I get to the college level,” Doldy said. “And I enjoy playing all three sports.”

Caldwell agrees with that college coach. “I would rather have my kids compete year-round in different sports and be coached by different coaches, being held to different expectations,” he said. “Obviously the whole injury prevention thing, utilizing different muscles. You always have to compete. Some of these guys go on and play in AAU and clubs; it’s not the same. A lot of that stuff is more individualistic, where as you play with a high school team it’s about the team. When they play, they play for team goals, not individual goals.”

‘It’s hard to take him off the field at all,’ Coach Dave Caldwell said. ‘We find time to give him a rest. He would prefer we don’t.’

The team goal this year is to improve, which should be attainable since Group III Hopewell is coming off a 1-9 season in which it played a ludicrously tough schedule loaded with Group IV and Group V playoff-caliber schools. Doldy took positives from the season, nonetheless.

“Last year it was one of the most unified teams I’ve ever been on,” he said. “Everyone had such great character and the captains were amazing at keeping the team together. Despite losing I had a really good experience on that team.”

Doldy helped make it a good experience with his talent and dedication. He rushed for 250 yards running behind Elijah Blu-Wilmott and also had 100 receiving yards. Defensively he made 60 tackles and had one interception and a forced fumble. He also played special teams “and never came off the field,” according to Caldwell.

This year, Doldy will get increased carries but will share the load with several other backs as Caldwell does not want to wear him down. He will also play special teams again.

“It’s hard to take him off the field at all,” the coach said. “We find time to give him a rest. He would prefer we don’t, though. He’s a guy just giving great effort all the time.”

Doldy started as a cornerback and tight end in the Hopewell Pop Warner. He was moved to receiver as a freshman but eventually landed at his current positions.

“I really like it,” he said. “I think I’m a lot better at those two positions than where I played before.”

Regardless of where he plays — or what sport he’s playing — Doldy is all-hustle all the time.

“He’s a young man that’s a leader by example,” Caldwell said. “He just knows how to compete in everything he does. He plays with a high motor. He gives great effort not only because he wants to be successful but he wants his team to be successful.”

Which is a great quality to have for someone who may possibly be leading men into battle one day. Doldy knows the need for discipline at a service academy, and feels his athletic career has laid a strong foundation.

“Athletics have given me all that discipline,” he said. “I have to come home, do my homework, that’s after coming from practice, which sometimes goes ‘til seven o’clock. During hockey we practice at night. I just know what I have to do and I do it.”

The most important thing he wants to do, is return his good fortune to others.

“I just want to give back to my community,” he said, “and give back to the country that’s given me these opportunities.”

Spoken like a true commander.