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Independence junior Evan Peaker showing big play knack on both sides of the ball

Maximum Potential Elite 10 Football08

Independence junior Evan Peaker, a running back and linebacker, practices with the Central Valley Elite club team in January. Peaker has rushed for 362 yards and five touchdowns in two games with the Falcons this spring and has also made a string of big plays on defense.

Based on offensive output alone, it definitely appeared that Evan Peaker was getting the most out of his first varsity start.

A junior running back on the Independence High School football team, Peaker made an instant offensive splash in the Falcons' season opener against South on March 26.

Running well the entire game, Peaker really hit his stride in the second half, finishing the night with 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns. That performance included a fourth quarter score that gave the Falcons, who trailed 17-7 at halftime, a 20-17 lead.

And yet, Peaker felt like he had more to give.

"My defensive coordinator (Kenny Wiley) came up to me after the game and told me that halfway through the third quarter, (Evan) went up to him and was kind of foaming at the mouth, saying 'hey coach, I'm ready to go whenever,'" Independence head coach Tyler Schilhabel said.

Giving into his wishes, Falcon coaches inserted Peaker into the game at linebacker, and his knack for making clutch plays followed him to the defensive side of the ball.

With South facing a critical fourth down late, Peaker delivered the knockout blow, colliding with a receiver after a completed pass and forcing a fumble. The Falcons proceeded to fall on the loose ball, allowing the offense to run out the clock in the victory formation.

More than a year removed from his final JV game, Peaker says he had a lot of pent up energy and was ready to release it in anyway possible in his varsity debut.

"I knew I could help my team more if I got on defense," he said. "I was ready to play some more ball."

He got his wish in week two, with Schilhabel estimating that Peaker played roughly 80 percent of defensive snaps against North. Much to the chagrin of the Stars, this did little to lessen his offensive output.

Peaker was even more dominant in his second game at running back, accounting for 244 yards from scrimmage, 191 of them coming on the ground. He also found the end zone three more times, including 53-yard back-breaker in the second half that all but iced the game away for Independence, which went onto win 39-13.

With 362 rushing yards through two games, Peaker has exceeded his own expectations, saying he set his initial goal at "maybe like 100 yards, a touchdown a game at most."

But based on what he's been doing since the start of spring practices, his production hasn't been a surprise to everyone.

"I'm not really shocked, nor are his teammates or the rest of his coaches," Schilhabel said. "Just seeing some of the stuff he does in practice, we knew that seeing him on Friday nights was going to be special."

The Falcons hope Peaker can keep the special vibes going this Friday, when they host fellow unbeaten Highland at 7:30.

Though they come in undefeated, the Scots defense has been susceptible to the run, allowing 100-yard rushers in each of the first two games.

Finding a way to extend his hot start on offense isn't the only thing Peaker has in mind. Continuing to see more and more snaps at linebacker, he and the rest of the defense will be tasked with slowing down a potent Highland offense currently averaging 45.5 points per games.

But with so little time to be on the field this spring, Peaker is excited to have so much on his plate in his junior year, saying he has a simple goal for the remainder of this season.

"I want to get the most experience I can right now with varsity football," he said. "I just want to do whatever I can to get better before my senior year."

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