There are rising stars, there are up and comers, there are hot name coaching prospects that find themselves at the top of every job openings list of potential hires. At the college ranks the last few years this has taken the form of PJ Fleck, Matt Campbell, and Matt Rhule. Kliff Kingsburry, Sean McVay, and (interestingly enough) Matt Rhule have been beneficiaries of these titles at the NFL ranks recently as well. High school is no different.
Jacob Peterson is a rising star, an up and comer, and a hot name prospect. This is a steal of a hire for Dayton.
There are multiple aspects of Peterson’s arrival to the Dayton football program that should put the whole state on notice, here are just three:
1 – There are 46 teams in 6A, Newberg allowed the least amount of points all season out of all of them (143), and had the lowest PPG allowed 6A (13 ppg). Overall 6A-4A (112 total teams), Newberg was tied for the 5th best PPG allowed in the state with 5A runner up Crater. All with Defensive coordinator Jacob Peterson.
Dayton allowed 42 points per game last season.
2 – Peterson’s trend line as a Head Coach is linear. Here’s how the Spartans did the two years before Peterson’s arrival, the two years he was there, and the year since he left:
2015 – 1-7, average score of 9-38
2016 – 2-7, average score of 11-43
2017 (Peterson arrives) – 5-4, average score of 16-22
2018 – 8-2, average score of 29-12
2019 (Peterson leaves) – 6-3, average score of 25-18
The stats and records speak for themselves, but the on field rate of improvement Sheridan had in those two years under Peterson’s leadership was extraordinary for a program that hadn’t won a league title in 36 years. The actual way the games played out was a complete turnaround from what had persisted, with seldom an exception, in Sheridan for the better part of two decades.
Suddenly in 2017 the Spartans were (watch the games don’t just look at the final scores) holding their own against teams like Amity and Dayton, and even beating playoff teams like Blanchet and reigning runner up Salem Academy. In neither that Blanchet game nor the Salem Academy game did Sheridan give up a single point (total score of 36-0).
In 2018 Sheridan beat #7 Willamina on the road, eventual 2A state champion Kennedy 44-7, eventual 2A runner up Santiam 9-0, and won their first playoff game in a generation against Warrenton as the number two overall seed in the 2A playoffs. The turnaround was incredibly quick.
There’s a debate over how much coaching has an impact on the outcome of a season in comparison to talent. Some teams over perform their coaching because they’re ultra talented, some teams underperform despite their talent due to poor coaching. No matter what the situation with Sheridan concerning their talent, Peterson was the head coach at the time. At worst he was the beneficiary of the largest talent bump at Sheridan in 20+ years.
But that’s the worst case scenario. At a place like Dayton, where the talent historically rarely dips and never completely disappears, having a coach like Peterson who can garner immediate respect (not just from players, but the community at large) and organize a program will bring results.
3 – Peterson’s age. He’s just 34, when he first took the Sherdian job he was 31. If he wants, Peterson has 30/35+ years of coaching in front of him. The timeline of a “life long single stop coach” (Dewey Sullivan, Jack Henderson types) is enticing to an AD (or GM at the professional ranks). It’s the justification for the Rams hiring Sean McVay at age 30, the Bears Matt Nagy at 39, or Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley at 33. If you hire them when they’re young, and they become a top tier coach, and – most importantly – stay at your school/organization, you’re set up for decades of success.
Dewey Sullivan was hired by Dayton at age 30, Joel Magill was hired at Amity just a few weeks after turning 29. It’s a common practice that at times can be high risk high reward, but for a historical powerhouse turn perennial bottom feeder like Dayton, it’s a move worth making. In a sense, Jacob Peterson was available at just the right moment.
The new Dayton coach isn’t nearly as young as Siuslaw’s Sam Johnson, who is in his mid 20’s, but nonetheless has many of the same characteristics. A positive track record, youth, name recognition, and an appreciation for their school and program’s past.
Right place, right time, right situation.
Dayton (probably) is back.