Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to Brandon Peters came in his most heartbreaking moment as a high school quarterback at Avon.
It was in the Class 6A semistate game in November, at the end of the second overtime. Center Grove coach Eric Moore was faced with a decision: kick the game-tying extra point and play a third overtime or roll the dice and win or lose on the 2-point conversion. Around him, Center Grove players raised two fingers and asked for the chance to win it.
Moore’s focus, however, was on Avon’s No. 18. Peters had scored on a fourth-down quarterback sneak on Avon’s second-overtime possession but needed to be helped off the field. When Moore saw Peters pull his helmet on in preparation for a third overtime, he made up his mind.
“Did Superman have his cape on or not?” Moore said later.
Center Grove did end it there, winning 35-34 in an epic tournament game. Two weeks later, the Trojans won the state title at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The fact that Avon went toe-to-toe with the state champs was of little consolation. But it was more evidence of how far the Avon program has come. Tourney wins over Ben Davis and Cathedral propelled the Orioles to their first regional title in a decade.
Peters, a 6-5, 205-pound senior, was at the center of the storm. On Thursday, the University of Michigan recruit was named the 2015 IndyStar Mr. Football by a statewide panel of coaches.
“You’d see him in practice and know those are throws that a typical high school quarterback cannot make,” Avon coach Mark Bless said. “That was eye-opening. But to see him do it in a game was something else. His teammates had great confidence in him.”
Peters was voted Mr. Football on 27 of the 60 total ballots. New Palestine quarterback Alex Neligh and Fort Wayne Luers receiver Austin Mack each received 10 votes. Center Grove defensive lineman Jovan Swann (six), Winchester running back Kiante Enis (four) and Whiting defensive back Martin Petruf (three) also received support.
Peters, also Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year, is Avon’s first Mr. Football.
“It means a lot to me because my teammates and coaches had a lot to do with it,” Peters said. “It’s an individual award, but there’s a lot more that goes into it.”
The next step comes quickly for Peters. After playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 9, he’ll officially begin classes at Michigan. With Wolverines’ starting quarterback Jake Rudock graduating, the job is open.
“Getting up there early will definitely help me a lot,” he said. “I’ll be able to learn the plays and get in the weight room and put on some weight. I’ll compete in spring ball and see if I can get the starting job. If not, I might get redshirted. It’s coming super quick and I can’t wait. I’m going to miss Avon and my friends and family, but it’s such a great opportunity. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
The future certainly appears bright for Brandon, the son of Dave and Barb Peters. He grew up in an athletic household, competing with — or against — older sister Brooke, a high school All-American volleyball player who recently completed her freshman season at Purdue.
“They are close but also competitive,” Barb said of Brandon and Brooke. “Everything was competition. If they were diving in the pool, I had to judge the best dive. That sort of thing.”
But they also helped each other. Even now, Brooke catches passes from Brandon if he’ll play volleyball against her first.
“That’s kind of how it was growing up,” Brandon said. “We were competitive but we’re also really happy for each other. She’s doing really well already at Purdue.”
When Bless came to Avon in 2010 after eight seasons at Mooresville, one of the first people he met was Dave Peters. Dave told Bless his son was a seventh-grade quarterback.
“I thought it was just like any other parent telling you about their kid,” Bless said with a laugh.
By Brandon’s freshman year, Bless had an idea of his potential. Peters took over as the starting quarterback as a sophomore and passed for 1,405 yards and 13 touchdowns as Avon finished 6-4 and lost to Ben Davis in its sectional game.
At the time, Peters was also considered a potential college basketball recruit. UNC-Greensboro offered a scholarship, and a number of other Division I schools showed interest.
“I think I could have played at a smaller Division I school,” Peters said. “I’m not sure. But once I started getting more looks for football, I kind of knew.”
As a junior, Peters was identified by recruiting services as one of the top pro-style quarterback prospects in the country. Offers rolled in from Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and more. In April, Peters became new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s first commitment.
“A great opportunity,” Peters said of the decision.
Peters passed for 1,876 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior in an 8-3 season. But the Orioles fell short of a sectional title, losing 34-27 to eventual state champion Ben Davis in the sectional. With a talented senior group returning, led by Peters, everything pointed to 2015 as a big season.
“When you have a three-year starter, he has seen it all,” Avon offensive coordinator Eric Moore said. “You don’t make play calls with any hesitation. (Peters) will figure it out and know where he needs to go with the football. A lot of times I’d tell him things in practice and he’d say, ‘I got it,’ and already know what to do. That makes it a lot easier for us to be aggressive.”
After starting the season 1-2, losing by a combined 10 points to Ben Davis and Hamilton Southeastern, the Orioles caught fire and won nine consecutive games. The highlights were a 27-22 win over Ben Davis in the sectional championship and a dramatic 37-34 double-overtime win over Cathedral in the regional.
“(The Cathedral game) was like something you dream about,” Peters said. “It was a really good team effort. The offensive line and defense were awesome.”
The finality of the Center Grove loss was rough. When Peters got home after the game, he went upstairs and shaved off his hair, which he had dyed blond for the tournament along with many other Avon players.
“It didn’t sink in for a couple days,” Peters said of the game. “I was a little mad we didn’t have the opportunity to play at state. I wanted it really bad for my teammates and coach Bless. That was the goal from the beginning of the season.”
Peters finished his senior year with 3,103 passing yards and 37 touchdowns (with five interceptions), completing 60.1 percent of his passes. For his career, Peters finished with 6,384 passing yards, 71 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He also rushed for 13 TDs.
Yet the numbers can also tell so much.
“One of the biggest things he expressed to his teammates was ‘Don’t be afraid to compete,’” Bless said. “He rose to the occasion and brought other guys with him.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
Mr. Football position award winners
Austin Mack, Fort Wayne Luers: The 6-2, 210-pound Ohio State recruit finished his high school career with 167 catches for 2,672 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, Mack also became more of a factor in the run game with 718 rushing yards and 13 TDs. He accounted for 49 TDs in all during his high school career, including six on kickoff returns.
Ben Skowronek, Homestead: The 6-4, 210-pound Northwestern recruit caught 133 career passes for 2,181 yards and 26 touchdowns. Skowronek caught 53 passes for 805 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior and also returned a kickoff for a score.
Ben Knutson, Penn: The 6-7, 285-pound Knutson started as a sophomore and a senior at offensive tackle and as a junior at defensive end. The University of Virginia recruit helped pave the way for Penn to make a run to the Class 6A state finals. Penn was 36-4 in Knutson’s three seasons as a starter.
Brandon Peters, Avon: The Michigan recruit led Avon to its first regional title since 2005 as he passed for 3,103 yards, 37 touchdowns and just five interceptions. For his career, Peters passed for 6,384 yards and 71 TDs. He also rushed for 13 career TDs.
Kiante Enis, Winchester: The Michigan recruit rushed for 2,393 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior to lead Winchester to a 10-3 record and its first sectional title. He also caught four TD passes and returned a punt, kickoff and interception for a score. Enis rushed for 6,991 yards for his career for 99 TDs.
Nate Needham, Chesterton: Needham reached the end zone on 95 percent of his kickoffs, making him a valuable weapon on Chesterton’s special teams. A torn rib cage muscle limited his field goal opportunities early in the season, but he did come back to make a 51-yarder against Valparaiso in the first round of sectional play. He averaged more than 40 yards per punt.
Jovan Swann, Center Grove: The defensive tackle was a dominant force for the Class 6A state champions, racking up 16.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. Swann is uncommitted for college, but has a number of Division I offers and is considered one of the state’s top recruits.
Noah Burks, Carmel: The 6-3, 230-pound Wisconsin recruit notched 77 tackles as a senior, along with five sacks and two interceptions. Burks helped lead Carmel to a 10-3 record and an appearance in a Class 6A semistate game, where it lost to Penn 16-10.
Justin Saylor, Roncalli: Saylor intercepted two passes as a senior and helped Roncalli to a Class 4A regional title, its first since 2005. Saylor was also a threat at receiver: He caught five touchdown passes this season. Saylor had 30 pass breakups as a senior and had six interceptions and 14 breakups as a junior.
Jared Smolar, Valparaiso: Smolar was named an all-conference punter for three consecutive seasons and averaged 41 yards per punt as a senior. He is being recruited by a number of Division I programs. He was named Valparaiso’s special teams MVP for three consecutive seasons.