Taking center stage

More news about: Whitworth
Bryan Peterson is directing the Whitworth offense and directing a play at Whitworth this year as well.
Whitworth athletics photo

The Whitworth football team has high hopes for this season, looking to contend with two nationally ranked programs for a Northwest Conference title and a berth into the NCAA Division III playoffs.

If the Pirates’ Hollywood script comes to life, quarterback Bryan Peterson should have no problem performing on a big stage. That’s because Peterson has plenty of on-stage experience already.

In addition to playing quarterback for the Pirates, Peterson is pursuing his passion for acting in the school’s theater department.

“Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve just loved role playing and just the idea of acting,” Peterson said. “I never really got into it and pursued it because I was so busy with athletics – playing three sports in high school.

“When I went to college, I just figured I’d try a few theater classes and see how they go. And I just immediately fell in love and started taking more classes and more classes.”

Peterson, now a junior at Whitworth, played baseball out of high school. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox at age 18 and played three years in the organization’s minor league system, rising to the Double-A level.

When he was released in the spring of 2011, he returned home to Spokane, Wash., looking to attend college close to home. Peterson chose Whitworth where he is a double major in theater and psychology, and his father convinced him to join the football team.

“I’m definitely busy year-round,” said Peterson, who is currently enrolled in 17 credit hours in addition to football practices and games.

“Playing sports and playing football, you’re on a team and there’s a lot of disciplined involved,” he added. “And I think playing sports my whole life has helped me to develop a really good work ethic … which has definitely carried over to theater.”

Even in the theater, Peterson is willing to take on a lot. In Whitworth’s spring production of the Laramie Project, the 23-year-old played seven roles.

“Playing seven different characters, I just had to be seven different people basically – so change up the vocal patters, change up the physicality of the characters,” he said. “But I think people do this in their everyday life though. They don’t treat their bosses the same way they treat their parents.”

Because of the time requirements, Peterson is not acting in the school’s main production this fall. But he intends to be in the program’s main stage production this spring.

“But I’m in other things. I’m in a directing class and I get to direct a play this semester,” said Peterson, who has directed the Whitworth football team to a 2-1 start this season. “It’s a festival of 10-minute plays. It’s a theater tradition that we do here at Whitworth.”

Both football and acting require a lot of memorization. For Peterson, keeping track of a playbook is a little more of a challenge than keeping track of his lines in a script.

“Playing quarterback, I think memorizing the plays is a little tougher because there is so much that goes on. You got to know what everyone is doing and you got to read the defense at the same time,” Peterson said. “Whereas in theater, you got to know your lines, you got to know your blocking – where you’re going to be when you say those lines, what kind of actions you do and also what the other characters are doing.

“So both of them involve a lot but I think there is more in football.”

Whitworth coach John Tully feels Peterson’s comfort in front of people helps him excel in both disciplines.

“When you’re put on stage, it’s like when you’re put on the field. You’re right in the public’s eye, and I think he deals with pressure very, very well,” said Tully, who is in his 19th season at the helm for the Pirates. “I don’t think that pressure impacts him in a negative way at all. I think he responds very, very positively.

“He’s got self-confidence and he can do well in front of the public.”

“Ever since I started doing theater things, I just feel more free out there – whether that be on stage in the theater or out on the field playing football,” Peterson said. “I feel more relaxed and more free.”

Peterson, who has passed for 818 yards and two touchdowns so far this season, credits the success he has had to his work ethic. That is a trait he picked up while playing minor league baseball at a young age.

“I went down to Florida on my own, and I immediately had to take care of myself,” Peterson said. “I didn’t really have anyone looking over me. So I really grew up in those three years. Also, it just enhanced my work ethic and made me more of a professional.”

Tully also pointed out Peterson’s willingness to work and the effects it has had on him as a student-athlete.

“I think he works hard at it. He’s a really good student and he’s a really good student of the game,” Tully said. “He’s gifted in many different areas and he has different interests. In a place like Whitworth he’s able to do those things.

“He’s a guy that’s found a niche in two different worlds, and really enjoys both of them.”

Is school, sports and plays too much for Peterson to take on at once?

“Keeping busy makes me happy,” he said.

On the field, Whitworth rolled to wins over St. Scholastica and Whittier to open the season. Last week, the Pirates’ comeback bid versus La Verne came up short. But that doesn’t mean curtains for the team’s season and goals.

“We’ve learned a lot from our first three games and we know we can play with teams, which is good for our confidence,” Peterson said. “But at the same time we know that we’ve got to bring it every game.”

He added that playing conference rivals Linfield and Pacific Lutheran – ranked Nos. 2 and 10, respectively – at home could help the Pirates achieve their goal of competing for a conference championship.

“The ultimate goal is to win league, get in the playoffs and see where that takes us,” Peterson said.

MIAC mania – upsets, ugliness and reunions

A busy weekend in the MIAC was highlighted by St. John’s upset win over St. Thomas on Saturday. The Johnnies forced five turnovers in a 20-18 victory.

St. John’s took the lead early in the fourth quarter when Alexi Johnson kicked a 34-yard field goal to give the Johnnies a two-point cushion.

Connor Bruns passed for 182 yards to help first-year head coach Gary Fasching win his MIAC debut.

“I said, ‘The thing we’re missing is that Johnnie mystique,” Fasching told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We’ve lost it a little bit. From that day forward that’s all we’ve talked about, that we’re never going to give up.”

The Tommies took a slim lead in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Matt O’Connell to Dom Truoccolo. Paul Graupner, who tied a school record with a 53-yard kick in the first half, missed the potential winning field goal from 32 yards out on the final play of the game.

“It’s really amazing that we even had a shot at the end with how poorly we played,” UST coach Glenn Caruso said in the Star Tribune. “This is going to sting for a while. There will be something positive that comes out of this, but I doubt I’ll see it today.”

The loss is St. Thomas’ first regular season loss since Oct. 17, 2009. The Tommies had won 36 regular season games in a row, including 27 straight versus MIAC foes.

The Troll. Not just found on the MIAC message board.

Elsewhere, Concordia-Moorhead retained the Troll in the “ugliest rivalry” in college football with a 33-29 win over St. Olaf Saturday.

“That’s the ugliest traveling trophy in the country, I tell people,” Concordia-Moorhead head coach Terry Horan told the Fargo Forum. “But it’s a good thing that it’s here. We take a lot of pride in it.”

The Troll, which the Cobbers and Oles have played for since 1974, was even featured on ESPN’s College GameDay when Chris Fowler displayed the creature made of moss harvested from pine trees in Norway. Fowler also predicted a Concordia-Moorhead victory.

Concordia has won the matchup for two years in a row and four of the last five seasons. The Cobbers lead the all-time series 36-25-2.

Hamline welcomed Carleton to Klas Field for a reunion of sorts.

The Pipers honored the last team to win a MIAC title. That 1988 team was coached by Dick Tressel – who now coaches wide receivers and serves as a recruiting coordinator for Carleton.

First year Hamline head coach Chad Rogosheske and assistant coach Luke Tressel both played for Dick at Hamline. Luke is Dick’s son.

Carleton won the game in overtime thanks to a 20-yard field goal by Brandt Davis. So Hamline will have to wait another week to try and snap its 26-game MIAC losing streak.

The rest of the West

Puget Sound forced five turnovers in a 42-33 win over Whittier Saturday, giving the Loggers their first win since Oct. 30, 2010. Connor Savage intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble to lead the defense while quarterback Braden Foley threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns. … UW-Platteville scored its first two touchdowns on defense, then John Kelly threw four more and ran for another as the Pioneers won a shootout with Lewis and Clark, 63-34. Platteville is now averaging 47.7 points per game after improving to 3-0 overall. … Jacob Stull rumbled into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown with 38 seconds to play to lift Greenville to a 28-27 win over Eureka. Stull finished with 109 yards to keep the Panthers undefeated. … UW-Whitewater avenged a loss to Buffalo State, winning big Saturday, 55-14. The Warhawks, who didn’t score a touchdown in last year’s 7-6 loss that snapped a 46-game winning streak, raced out to a 31-0 lead in the first half. … Erik Peterson threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another score to help Bethel blast Buena Vista, 47-14.

Rank ’em

A total of 10 teams in the West Region are ranked in this week’s Top 25 with six teams ranked in the top 10.

Linfield leads the way at No. 2. They moved up one spot and garnered seven first place votes.

Bethel moved up to No. 5 – one spot ahead of rival St. Thomas, which fell four positions after losing to St. John’s.

UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville and Pacific Lutheran round out the top 10 at Nos. 8, 9 and 10, respectively. UW-Whitewater moved up to No. 12 this week.

Coe remained at No. 20 and St. John’s enters the top 25 at No. 21. Cal Lutheran lost its second straight game to a ranked program and dropped to No. 25.

Augsburg and Willamette also received votes in this week’s poll.

Number of the week

42 – as in the number of minutes Coe possessed the ball in its 10-0 shutout win over Washington U. Coe chewed up 42:17 while the visiting Bears had the ball for just 17:43. The Kohawks marched 95 yards down the field in 10 plays for its lone touchdown of the game and improved to 3-0 on the season.

Looking ahead

After defeating a pair of SCIAC foes – including Cal Lutheran – Pacific Lutheran travels to UW-Eau Claire Saturday for another non-conference game. The Lutes enter the game ranked No. 10 but have to make the long trip to Carson Park. Meanwhile the Blugolds should be rested coming off their bye week.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, break-out players or any other storylines in the West. Or just drop me a note and let me know what you like or don’t about the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter at @DU_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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