His teammates call him “Pistol Pete” for his knack for taking out ball carriers with big hits.
They also sometimes call him the “Tazmanian Devil” for of his ability to create havoc on the football field despite his undersized frame.
Whether it’s a 300-plus pound lineman or a 6-3, 200-plus pound ball carrier, Central’s opponents have learned it’s prudent to not underestimate senior Peterson Joseph.
“I’m not a linebacker, I’m an athlete,” Joseph said. “You put me anywhere even on the D-line against guys twice my size, I’ll take them out. I don’t care.
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“In the Mainland [playoff] game last year, on the opening kickoff we were on return, I took out one of their guys,” Joseph said. “He got back up and then fell down again. That makes me smile when I can do something like that.”
Central (11-2), already the first Miami-Dade County team to advance to six consecutive state finals, is vying to become only the second team in the county (Booker T. Washington) and fourth statewide to win four state titles in a row.
An off-and-on starter at mostly the outside linebacker position for the past four seasons, the 5-8, 165-pound Joseph is one of two defensive stalwarts for the Rockets that can become four-time state champions — a rarity in Dade County — if they beat Seffner Armwood in the Class 6A final at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Despite being surrounded by major college level talent for the better part of his high school career, Joseph’s impact on one of the nation’s best defenses cannot be measured.
Joseph, who has also played free safety and a little bit of running back during his career, had 75 tackles entering the state semifinal round, which ranked third on the team behind Donovan Thompson (FIU commit) and defensive end Keir Thomas, a major FBS-school prospect.
Because he is smaller than a traditional linebacker, Joseph has not yet received a college offer. But a few schools are starting to take notice. Central coach Roland Smith said Joseph, who has a 2.7 GPA, has drawn interest from Bethune-Cookman and a few other FCS schools.
Joseph’s dedication and willingness to learn is something Smith said colleges shouldn’t take for granted. Joseph said he has played despite shoulder, ankle and thumb injuries throughout the season.
“Pete gives up his body for the team and all the kids respect him,” Smith said. “His size doesn’t matter. We have 300 pound guys like offensive linemen that listen to him. He’s a great kid both on and off the field.”
Joseph, who was born in the North Miami area and is of Haitian descent, is the youngest of 12 siblings. He grew up playing football at a few different Optimist Leagues before making a name for himself at Scott Lake Park just before coming to Central.
Two of his older brothers played high school football. One of them, Brandon Joseph, graduated from Northwestern and played briefly at the University of Louisville. The other, Rudy Joseph, went to Central around that same time.
His punishing hits have provided plenty of excitement for the Rockets.
But while highlight worthy, Joseph’s play has also been clutch.
His ability to create turnovers over the years has been a tremendous complement to a defense that last season totaled 83 sacks. This season, the Rockets haven’t been as stingy on the scoreboard as last season, but still have more than 75 sacks as a team.
Joseph has only one of those, but his leadership, and ability to slow down opposing running games, is the perfect complement to Central’s fearsome pass rush.
“Pete is a great dude on and off the field and always has a positive attitude,” Thomas said. “People might not know Pete, but he’s very vocal on the field and you will hear him when you are out there. He keeps us going and he’s an overall team captain even for the offense, too.”
Smith made Joseph a team captain this season in recognition of his leadership. Smith said sometimes Joseph will even challenge him to make a rousing pregame speech.
“[Joseph] has high expectations for himself and he even tells me the high expectations he has for me,” Smith said. “There are some things you can’t measure like heart and he’s got plenty of that. He’s a program kid and has gotten stronger every year he’s been here.
“He has a story to tell kids when he becomes an adult about what he’s been able to accomplish for all four years. We wouldn’t be where we’re at right now without him.”
FOOTBALL STATE FINALS
Where: The Citrus Bowl, 1 Citrus Bowl Place, Orlando.
Admission: $12 per session; Parking: $10.
Last week’s state champions – Class 4A: Miami Booker T. Washington; 3A: Jacksonville Trinity Christian; 2A: Jacksonville University Christian; 1A: Trenton.
Friday’s schedule – Class 5A: Orlando Bishop Moore (13-1) vs. Crawfordville Wakulla (13-1), 1:07; Class 7A: St. Thomas Aquinas (12-1) vs. Viera (10-4), 7:07.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 6A: Miami Central (11-2) vs. Seffner Armwood (14-0), 1:07; Class 8A: Flanagan (11-2) vs. Kissimmee Osceola (13-1), 7:07.
AT A GLANCE
SEFFNER ARMWOOD (14-0)VS. MIAMI CENTRAL (11-2)
Coaches – CEN: Roland Smith (3rd year at CEN, 39-4, 9th overall, 107-17); ARM: Sean Callahan (25th year, 254-78).
State experience – CEN: 4-1 (won in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014); ARM: 3-4 (won state titles in 2003, 2004, 2011).
Road to state – CEN: d. Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson 20-3; Miami Carol City 36-8; Daytona Beach Mainland 33-21; Naples 41-21; ARM: d. Sebring 44-7; Brandon 34-14; Gainesville 40-20; Cantonment Tate 53-19.
Probable offensive starters – CEN: LE Darnel Soloman, 6-2, 205, Sr.; LT Navaughn Donaldson, 6-5, 330, Jr.; LG Ferninand Saintil, 6-0, 230, Sr.; C Benoit Gullid, 6-0, 260, Sr.; RG Mershawn Miller, 6-2, 310, Jr.; RT David Bradley, 6-3, 300, Sr.; RE Treyvon Brinson, 6-0, 175, Sr.; QB Jerrod Thomas, 6-3, 185, Sr.; HB Khori Roberts, 5-11, 185, Sr.; FB Chaii Bland, 5-9, 165, So.; FL Kahmanie Carter, 6-3, 185, Sr.; K Jordan Nadelman, 5-10, 170, Fr.; ARM: WR Warren Thompson, 6-4, 185, So.; LT Evan Montreuil, 6-2, 270, Sr.; LG John Waliga, 6-3, 301, Jr.; C Mike Brown, 6-4, 295, Sr.; RG Jacquez Lilite, 6-1, 265, Jr.; RT Kevin Richardson, 6-3, 300, Sr.; WR Trevor Laurent, 5-9, 170, Sr.; QB Darrian McNeal, 5-10, 180, Jr.; RB Brian Snead, 6-0, 190, So.; RB Erin Collins, 6-0, 190, Jr.; WR Dennis Harris, 6-0, 185, Jr.; K Dalton Kocsis, 5-9, 168, Sr.
Probable defensive starters – CEN: LE Eric Mitchell, 6-2, 230, Sr.; LT Laurante Huggins, 6-0, 260, Sr.; RT Keir Thomas, 6-3, 250, Sr.; RE Marlon Gerald, 6-0, 235, Sr.; LB Shalmar Hinds, 6-2, 215, Sr.; LB Donovan Thompson, 6-0, 215, Sr.; LB Peterson Joseph, 5-8, 165, Sr.; DB Jamel Cook, 6-4, 190, Sr.; DB Jamal Hudson, 6-0, 185, Sr.; DB Christian Shephard, 5-11, 175, Sr.; S Robinson Rocques, 5-11, 165, Sr.; P Angel Lopez, 5-10, 170, So.; ARM: LE Malcolm Lamar, 6-5, 265, So.; N Savon Woods, 6-1, 285, So.; RE Clint Polk, 6-0, 190, Sr.; OLB Charles Jones, 6-3, 195, Jr.; MLB Kyheem Campbell, 5-11, 190, Sr.; SLB Justin Manning, 6-1, 230, Sr.; OLB Dedarallo Blue, 5-11, 185, Sr.; CB Deon Morgan, 5-11, 155, Jr.; CB Nigel Graham, 5-10, 175, Jr.; S Tyler Scott, 5-10, 180, Sr.; S Mehki LaPointe, 6-1, 175, Jr.; P Mike Chillura, 6-1, 170, Sr.