ELDRIDGE — Zach Petersen has football in his bloodlines.
His father, Troy, was a nose guard and four-year letterwinner for Iowa State from 1991-94. His uncle played college football, too.
“Those two really shaped me into who I am as a player,” Petersen said.
What Petersen has become is a dominant, disruptive defensive end for North Scott’s football program.
The 6-foot-4 and 220-pound Petersen enters Friday night's state quarterfinal clash against Bettendorf ranked second in Class 4A with nine sacks.
“If there’s a better defensive lineman out there, I haven’t seen him yet,” North Scott coach Kevin Tippet said.
When Bettendorf coach Aaron Wiley watches film on the Lancers, No. 55 jumps out.
“He’ll be as good as anybody we play all year at that position,” Wiley said. “They’ve got some other guys on that defense that are good, but he’s the one that stands out the most. He’s tough to block.”
Petersen has evolved from a solid contributor on a 5-5 team as a junior to an all-stater on a 9-1 squad this season.
Tippet felt Petersen's surge started last winter on the wrestling mat.
Competing at 195 pounds, Petersen compiled a 38-14 record, reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals and helped North Scott place fifth at state duals.
"Just the toughness from wrestling," Tippet said. "He physically dominated people on the mat."
He attended several football camps last summer — Iowa, Iowa State and Illinois — and had success. As a result, his confidence grew.
“I knew I was an okay, average defensive end, but doing well at those camps made me feel good about what I was doing,” Petersen said. “Being able to translate that onto the field was a big confidence boost.”
Petersen hasn’t slowed down. He is second on the team with 49.5 tackles, 15 for loss.
“He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed, and he’s powerful,” Tippet said. "He's always had the athletic ability. He's got the confidence to go with it now."
Teammates often poke fun at him for his long arms. That 78-inch reach has come in handy to help him get separation and off blocks.
In North Scott’s two closest district games — Pleasant Valley and Dubuque Senior — Petersen had 10 tackles and four sacks.
“We had no answer for him most of the night,” PV coach Rusty VanWetzinga said after the Week 7 contest. “He’s just one of those tough, hard-nosed kids.”
Petersen has the challenge of trying to chase down a mobile quarterback this week in Bettendorf’s Carter Bell.
Bell has a knack for evading pressure with his athleticism.
“It’ll be a good challenge,” Petersen said. “You can’t just be running in there because he’ll step up and be gone. You’ve got to be real disciplined in what you’re doing.
“If people try to be Super Man and do more than one job, that’s when stuff is going to start hurting us. If we do our assignments, everything will fall into place.”
Petersen's father has been integral in his football upbringing. When Zach's fifth- and sixth-grade football team had a shortage of coaches, Troy stepped in to help out.
"He's really rubbed off on me," he said.
Petersen, in fact, has watched some of the clips from his father's playing days at Iowa State under Jim Walden.
“It is kind of fun to go back and see what he used to do,” Petersen said.
The younger Petersen has an edge in quickness. The elder was bigger.
“Overall, we’re pretty much the same in that we both got off the ball well and got into people,” Petersen said.
Like his father, Petersen plans to play football in college. What level and where is still to be determined. He’ll concentrate on that once the season is over.
First, he wants to lead North Scott’s program to a place it never has been — the state semifinals and a trip to the UNI-Dome.
“It is cool to think we’re that close,” Petersen said. “It gets everyone fired up and ready to go.
“I knew we’d have a good season but wasn’t quite sure if it would turn out this good. We’re a tight-knit group, and everyone meshes together real well. There are no conflicts, no egos.”