At 5-foot-9, 160 pounds Squalicum sophomore Ben Peterson is easily overlooked.
Just ask Storm coach Nick Lucey.
“I had heard about so many kids it was a bit of an overload,” said Lucey of when he first took over the football program. “I think the first day we got on the field, I was going, ‘Who (is this)?’ I’d met Ben, but it was kind of like, ‘Whoa,’ because you see Ben and he looks like a sophomore. Then all of a sudden you get on the field and, ‘Man.’”
Odds are, Lucey’s reaction is similar to that of opposing teams.
Peterson’s strong play this fall shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a freshman, he led the Storm in both receptions and tackles. But this fall he’s established himself as arguably one of the most dynamic playmakers in the Northwest Conference.
His 51 catches and 805 receiving yards both rank No. 2 in among conference wide receivers and his eight touchdown catches tie him for third most. He’s a quarterback on defense from his strong safety position, relaying signals from the sideline. And by the way, he’s an electric kick returner, having ran two back for scores.
He’ll undoubtedly have another large role when No. 10 Squalicum (8-2) travels to play Orting (5-5) in the opening round of the Class 2A State Playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, at Orting Stadium.
During Squalicum’s 44-16 district win over Archbishop Murphy last week, Peterson hauled in five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, played a key supporting role in stopping ATM’s run game and also took a punt back for a touchdown.
“It’s a lot, of course not leaving the field very much, but it’s fun,” said Peterson of playing myriad roles for Squalicum. “Your not sitting on the sideline, saying, ‘I can’t do anything about it.’ Your out there, and you can be a game-changer.”
And that’s exactly what Peterson has been.
With athletes at running back such as Nick Manchester and Jordan Campbell and receivers like Josiah Westbrook, Coleman Schwab, Quinn Carpenter and Damek Mitchell, Lucey seems to have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. But whenever Squalicum gets in a precarious spot, Peterson’s usually there pulling the Storm through.
“He’s a spark plug,” Lucey said. “You go back to a game like the Ferndale game (a Week 6 24-17 road win). ... We came out in the second half and made it a point to get it to him in space. Ben’s been a guy where if things are looking a little, eh, you look to get him the ball to get you back on track.”
What makes Peterson such a player, Lucey said, is a combination of maturity, heady play and overall God-given talent. How Peterson prepares for games, Lucey said he’s a 16 year old going on 35. The coach said he’s like having another quarterback on the field, and when it comes to bringing Peterson down, there just aren’t many players who possess his combination of straight-line speed, the agility and footwork he’s developed through soccer and his overall toughness.
Last week after Squalicum’s win over Murphy, Manchester called Peterson a “freak of nature,’ adding “he’s probably the fastest kid on the team.” That’s saying a lot, given Westbrook finished eight at state in the 100-meter last spring.
But like any strong leader, Peterson is quick to deflect praise and give some back to his teammates.
“All the success you get is because of the other guys, because they are running their routes,” said Peterson of Squalicum’s receiving corps. “It’s not like (defenses) can say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to guard Josiah, I’m going to key Quinn, key Coleman.’ You can’t do that, because we got so many different guys that if you focus on one, you’re leaving someone else open.”