Dominic Peterson never hesitates to break out dancing — except after he sacks a quarterback. He knows that would cost his team a 15-yard penalty for taunting.
"If they allowed me to dance, I'd dance so much the coaches would probably get annoyed by it," Peterson said. "It's a good thing they don't let me dance after a sack."
Peterson, a 6-foot, 265-pound senior defensive tackle, has 15 1/2 sacks for unbeaten Harbor City Narbonne, which plays Dorsey for the City Section Division I championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at El Camino College in Torrance.
It's one of 16 high school football championship games this weekend across Southern California. Each section champion will advance to a regional bowl game next weekend, though the Southern Section Division I champion is expected to advance to the Open Division state championship game in Sacramento on Dec. 17.
Peterson is someone every potential championship team needs. His infectious smile and positive vibe make him stand out as much as his fiery red hair.
"He's comfortable in his own skin," Coach Manuel Douglas said. "No matter where he is, he's not embarrassed about dancing."
"I have a dance for everything," Peterson said. "I like to go old school sometimes. I mix old school with new school. Older people look at me and laugh and kind of get the joke. I do a little two step, a little cabbage patch every now and then. Just throw it in and have everybody feel the love and let everybody know I'm a happy person."
He certainly makes Douglas smile when he's on defense.
"He plays so hard all the time and is so versatile," Douglas said. "He's unblockable inside. He's so quick off the ball."
Peterson's lack of height is seen by some people as a disadvantage, but he thinks otherwise. His father, Darwin, used to be Narbonne's defensive coordinator, so he has grown up knowing the fundamentals of football.
"Being 6 foot does have an advantage, because instead of having to get super low I'm already lower than most O-linemen, so that gives me good leverage," Peterson said, "and just watching [the Rams'] Aaron Donald — he's about 6-foot, 280 — it lets me know anything is possible."
Narbonne is on a 26-game winning streak. Last season, the Gauchos won the City Section Division I title, their fifth under Douglas, and their first state title. Their defense is one of the best in the Southland. They have perhaps the best group of linebackers, led by USC commit Raymond Scott and senior Anthony Pandy.
But to have a chance to beat the Gauchos, it really comes down to neutralizing Peterson. He's constantly disrupting offenses with his ability to run around and through blockers. He's always encouraging teammates and making sure his positive attitude rubs off on them.
And he's already plotting his future dance moves if Narbonne is able to keep winning over the next three weeks.