Wyatt Ferris used to be a quarterback in Pop Warner football.
With his height, he could certainly see over the defense, but there was something that he said held him back. He couldn't always remember the plays.
"I'd remember some, but I'd get them mixed up and sometimes just forget them straight out," Ferris said.
Fast forward some years, and Ferris no longer needs to remember plays on the gridiron. He is a senior leader for the Costa Mesa High boys' water polo team, and he is on fire.
Ferris, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, scored a career-high 10 goals last week as the Mustangs bested rival Estancia, 17-3, in the Orange Coast League opener for both schools.
He was not done. He scored eight goals on Wednesday as the Mustangs defeated Saddleback, 16-4, in another key league game.
A day after the game he had leader-type things to say, even though the game could have been expected to be tight. The teams played two close games over the summer, and Saddleback won both.
"I was expecting to come out strong," Ferris said. "I expected it from my team, and I knew that they expected it from themselves too."
What Coach Justin Taylor expects from Ferris, a three-year varsity starter, is a strong all-around game. He can both play at and defend two meters. Lately he hasn't been doing that as much, as Taylor prefers Ferris on the perimeter so he can counterattack with ease.
It wasn't always that way. When Ferris played on varsity as a sophomore he was primarily a defensive player. But last year he exploded to score a team-high 93 goals, which ranked him 13th on Mesa's all-time list.
"Last year he really came into his own and had a breakout season," Taylor said. "I guess I was a little surprised last year when his offensive game developed as well as it did. I think he realized that he was capable of playing a more well-rounded game. James [Lewis] and Wyatt fed off each other very well."
Ferris said he expected Lewis, then a senior, to lead the team in scoring. But he said Lewis is quick to remind him that he missed a couple of games due to injury.
"He had a higher average [per game], so he likes to say he had more goals than me," Ferris said, smiling.
Now the Mustangs have young pieces like sophomores Deighton Tachiki-Urias and Nick Lewis, but Ferris is undoubtedly the leading scorer. He has a league-high 44 goals for Costa Mesa (9-2), on his way to another season near triple-digits.
Ferris, who stands 6-foot-4, is a beast. He is the third of four children, all of whom have gone to Costa Mesa and been involved in sports. His younger brother, Oliver, a junior at Mesa, is the quarterback of the Mustangs' junior varsity football team.
Wyatt Ferris said he doesn't really give his younger brother any tips. Wyatt himself is a three-sport athlete, as he also plays basketball and volleyball. He has started at middle blocker and opposite hitter for the Mustangs' varsity volleyball team.
But now aquatics is his focus. He said he would like to play in college. Ferris credits his coach Taylor, who was a goalie at Costa Mesa in the 1990s, for helping him come this far.
"How well I'm doing is because of what he does, his practices and how he runs everything," Ferris said. "Without him, I don't know if I'd be talking to you right now. [The program] was very successful in his day, and he wants us to return to that success. We're definitely getting better, better and better. This year, we're hopefully going to make it to CIF, and I think we can get better from there. We have the club program, CMAC [Costa Mesa Aquatics Club], and they're learning at such a young age and they have a whole bunch of practice time. We're getting there, definitely."
In the meanwhile, Ferris is helping the Mustangs make a run through league. They still have Godinez, Sage Hill and Laguna Beach to go. The Breakers have never lost a league game since the league was formed in 2006.
"We just want to make it so we can contend for Laguna in the last game," Ferris said. "We want the last game to be for a league championship. I fully expect it to be like that."
If the Mustangs get there, it will be Ferris leading the way.
"He definitely has the ability to play at a higher level, and I hope he pursues that," Taylor said. "The kid's a stud. If he gets an opportunity in close to the cage, one-on-one, he's hard to stop.
"He's a man of few words. He's usually not the guy in there rallying the troops, but his play speaks for itself."
Born: Aug. 25, 1995
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Weight: 160 pounds
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Justin Taylor
Favorite food: Cheeseburger
Favorite movie: "Avatar"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping Costa Mesa win the Lil' Pickle Tournament last year at the Mustangs' pool, defeating Pacifica in overtime in the championship match.