Sports

Football's still his calling

Kevin Peterson, a 1993 South Kitsap High School graduate, is shown celebrating a touchdown during the 1997 Division 1-AA playoffs with Eastern Washington University. He now is an assistant coach at Heritage High in Vancouver, Wash. - Photo courtesy Eastern Washington University Sports Information Department
Kevin Peterson, a 1993 South Kitsap High School graduate, is shown celebrating a touchdown during the 1997 Division 1-AA playoffs with Eastern Washington University. He now is an assistant coach at Heritage High in Vancouver, Wash.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Eastern Washington University Sports Information Department

Many of his teammates have distanced themselves from their playing days.

Tony Coats operates a chiropractic clinic in Los Gatos, Calif. Benji Olson settled with his family on 18 acres in Franklin, Tenn., after 11 seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Derek Strey runs a maximum-security unit at Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile detention center in Snoqualmie.

Then there is Kevin Peterson.

He was the tackle on the 1992 team that featured an offensive line — although Strey officially was a tight end — that arguably was the most talented in school history.

But Peterson, 36, who played at Eastern Washington University with Strey, is the only member of the group still working on the gridiron. Peterson, who returned to the area Saturday for the annual Benji Olson/Ed Fisher Scholarships Golf Classic at Trophy Lake Golf & Casting, coaches at Heritage High School in Vancouver, Wash., where he lives with his wife and two young daughters.

While Coats, a seventh-round pick in 1999 by Cincinnati, and Olson both seemed destined to play in the NFL — both were highly touted recruits who signed with the University of Washington — Peterson already was contemplating his future in high school.

He credited his interest in becoming a coach and teacher to long-time South assistant Steve Reischman.

“I modeled myself after Coach Reischman,” Peterson said. “I just always enjoyed the high-school experience and knew that I wanted to major in education. Coaching was a natural progression to tie along with education.”

That continued at Eastern, where Peterson moved to center and became an All-Big Sky first-team selection at that position as a senior in 1997. He and Strey helped the Eagles to 12 wins that year, which was a school record until Eastern won 13 contests en route to a national championship last year. The Eagles’ season ended in the 1-AA semifinals that year with a 25-14 loss against Ohio’s Youngstown State.

For Peterson, it felt like a parallel to his time at South. The Wolves had a 26-5 record in his three seasons, but won just one state-playoff game.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t have as much success as we probably should have,” he said.

Peterson started his coaching career at Foster High School in Tukwila and moved to Heritage in 2004 when his former teammate, ’99 Eastern graduate Dan Novick, became the coach there. Novick, who now is the coach at Kingston, said he began recruiting Peterson when he became the coach in 2001 at Port Angeles.

“He’s one of — if not the best coach — I’ve ever worked with,” Novick said.Novick said he would not hesitate to hire Peterson again. The two remain friends and recently reviewed video together.

“He’ll never brag about himself,” Novick said. “He’s very secure in who he is and what he’s accomplished. He just wants guys that will go out and execute and be nasty on the football field.”

It is a role Peterson relishes. He said he has no intention of running his own program because that entails dealing with “parents, administration and all that other stuff.”

That does not mean Peterson has been able to avoid odd predicaments, though. In 2009, Heritage faced South in the Class 4A state play-in game at Silverdale Stadium. The Wolves won 28-21.

“It was kind of mixed emotions,” he said. “You want to win as a coach and the team you’re with, but you’re always tied to your roots. It was a neat experience to see old coaches.”

That keeps him returning to the area to compete in the annual golf tournament.

“It’s a great experience to come back, try and keep the future going and reunite with old coaches, teachers and people I grew up with.

 

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