Peterson takes off for Newport

Riley Peterson scores, surfs and soars. Not in that particular order, but on any given day, he can do all three.

Peterson is on the lacrosse and surf teams at Newport Harbor High. When he's not on the field with a stick or in the ocean on a short board, the senior is in the air on a plane.

The single-engine Piper aircraft isn't his. It belongs to his grandfather, Burt Christiansen, who lives in Utah. Peterson comes from a family of pilots. His other grandpa, Don Peterson, used to fly, and his father, Ty Peterson, is a licensed pilot..

Father and son recently visited Christiansen. They went to check out the University of Utah, the school the 18-year-old Peterson plans to attend.

When it was time to go home, they flew together on Christiansen's four-person plane. The flight from a small airport near Salt Lake City to John Wayne Airport took about five hours.

The plane is now tied down at John Wayne Airport. The plane is there for the young Peterson, who plans to follow his grandpas' and dad's path.

He's close to earning his pilot's license. In some ways, he didn't want to be so close. The only reason that he has free time now is because his high school lacrosse career ended on Tuesday.

Peterson and his teammates tirelessly worked to reach Tuesday, the start of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs. Their postseason lasted only one round, as they lost the opener at fourth-seeded JSerra, 14-4.

Peterson scored in the game and recorded three takeaways, two groundballs and two knockdowns. He did many of those things down the stretch for the Sailors.

They needed him to produce. During a five-day stretch in late April, they played three games. Each one was crucial.

The Sailors had to win out to qualify for the postseason for the fifth straight year. Peterson helped their cause in the final week of the regular season, finishing with six goals, one assist, 21 groundballs and six takeaways.

"We needed to show up and make a statement," said Peterson, whose team did just that.

Newport Harbor started the week at home with a 13-6 win against Esperanza in a nonleague game. Then came two tough Sunset League matchups and the Sailors picked up a 9-8 victory at Marina and a 10-8 victory at Los Alamitos.

The last one ended a 10-game losing streak to Los Alamitos and it marked the first time Sailors won at Los Alamitos.

"That got us the 13th seed in the playoffs," Peterson said of the Sailors' first triumph against Los Alamitos in six years. "We came close to beating Los Al earlier in the year. I wish we could have that one back."

There isn't much Peterson regrets from his final season with the Sailors. He played wherever the team asked him, at attacker, in the midfield, and as a faceoff specialist.

Newport Harbor's strength of schedule was ranked fourth in the Southern Section. And Peterson performed at a high level against the best.

He finished his third year on varsity as Newport Harbor's top point scorer with 24 goals and five assists. His 72 groundballs led the team and he was one of the best faceoff specialists, winning more than half his draws.

"Pound for pound, he is one of the toughest players I have ever coached in [Orange County]," said Newport Harbor third-year coach Mark Todd, who used to guide Corona del Mar, one of the best programs in the state. "He is gritty, he hustles all over the field, and can make big plays when needed. He is also a great team-first-kind-of guy and is well respected by all of his teammates."

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Riley Peterson

Born: Nov. 26, 1994

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-8

Weight: 155 pounds

Sport: Boys' lacrosse

Year: Senior

Coach: Mark Todd

Favorite food: Tacos

Favorite movie: "Caddyshack"

Favorite athletic moment: "When we beat Los Al for the first time since [2007]."

Week in review: Peterson led the Sailors to a 3-0 record during the final week of the regular season, helping them qualify for the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs. He recorded six goals, one assist, 21 groundballs and six takeaways during the stretch.

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