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Greg DeVillers / Forum News Service, Published July 18 2013

Larimore father-son duo together on football field one last time

MAYVILLE, N.D. – The abrupt end to the 2012 football season was a blow to Paul Peterson as both a coach and a father.

Peterson’s Larimore team took an 8-0 record into the North Dakota Class 1A playoffs. But the Polar Bears couldn’t get past the first round, as Milnor-North Sargent rallied to beat Larimore 28-22. Larimore’s season was done and so was the high school career of P.J. Peterson, Paul’s son.

“I was pretty emotional after that game,” Paul said. “We had high expectations as a team. We thought we’d go farther. And I thought that was it, the last time I’d coach P.J. You’re never really ready for that. It was rough.”

Father and son will have a second final game, however.

Paul is an assistant coach, handling the defense, and P.J. an outside linebacker for the 11-man East squad at the 4 p.m. game Saturday in the annual North Dakota Shrine Bowl at the Alerus Center. Practices for the Shrine Bowl started Monday.

“He’s coached me for eight years,” P.J. said of his father. “He coached me in the fourth grade, the first game I played representing Larimore. Now he’s coaching me in the last game in which I’m representing Larimore. This definitely means a lot to me. We’ve been through a lot together in football.”

Football has been a passion that has helped bond Paul with his son. Football talk spills over from the field and the locker room to the family table.

“Nothing was ever left in the locker room,” P.J. said. “We’d get home and we’d always talk about what happened at practices. On Friday nights, we’d get home after a game and start watching the game tape. We’d watch it once that night, go to bed and watch it over and over all weekend.

“My mom (Nancy) had moments where she’d tell us, ‘Let’s stop talking about football all the time.’ But in the fall, and in the summer getting ready for the season, that’s all we’d talk about.”

Peterson was a two-time Class A all-state pick, as a defensive back in his junior season and a first-team running back as a senior after rushing for 1,473 yards (8.4 per carry) and 18 touchdowns. He was chosen by coaches as the Region 2A senior player of the year.

While P.J. enjoyed playing for his father, it wasn’t always easy.

“My teammates were always OK with it,” P.J. said. “And I think I had to work harder – on the field and in the weight room – because I was the coach’s kid. I felt I had to prove more, to my teammates and my dad; that I earned to right to be out there playing.

“I didn’t want anybody thinking I was playing just because I was the coach’s son.”

DeVillers writes for the Grand Forks Herald