The way his older sister tells it, Broadneck junior goalie Sam Peterson "is a wild man. Always has been, always will be."
"When he was younger, whenever you turned around, he was jumping off of a couch or riding his Big Wheel in traffic," said Annapolis girls lacrosse coach Sue Chittim, who is 12 years Sam's senior.
"He was always getting into things and loved to do everything on his own. He was a crazy man."
Maybe that's why Peterson felt so comfortable when he was asked as a 6-year-old to play goalkeeper for the first time on his Cape St. Claire recreation league lacrosse team.
He had played in the "glory" position of attackman for a year, but admits he lacked the speed to be effective. But when Peterson's fury was "caged," he channeled it toward protecting what was his. And he grew to love goalkeeping, the job nobody wanted.
"It was tough, at first, getting hit with hard shots and wearing more protective pads than you do in high school," said Peterson, a 5-foot-11, 160-pounder. "It's tougher, physically, than most other positions because you're going to go home with a certain amount of bumps and bruises after every game. But it's less tiring, and you just get used to it."
Today, Broadneck coach Clay White calls the 16-year-old Peterson "simply the best goalie our school has ever had."
Entering the season, White tabbed his defense "a question mark." He said a key would be how Peterson, a 3.0 student at Broadneck, learned to lead "the 15 or so seniors" who returned from last year's Bruins squad, which went 10-5 and was eliminated by North County in the Class 4A-3A state quarterfinals.
"Last year, he had [All-County defender] Bryan Bowman settling things down for him," said White of Peterson, a starter on last year's team. "Respect wasn't given to him right away this year, he still had to earn it."
Peterson has done just that, stopping shots at a 70.5 percent clip and anchoring a defense that has yielded fewer than five goals per game. He allowed the most goals against Severna Park (an 11-8 victory) and in losses to Maryland Scholastic Association powers St. Mary's, 8-7, and Severn, 8-2.
"He's so consistent, and his presence gives us a lot of confidence," said junior defender Matt Konrad. "You don't have to worry about a fluke goal getting by him. He's become an exceptional team leader."
Still, Peterson finds himself in the shadows of two of the county's senior keepers -- Northeast's Steve Gorski, who is headed for UMBC and who this year led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance in five years, and Severn's Court Durling, who anchored the Admirals into the MSA's championship semifinals.
But while Gorski's and Durling's seasons ended with losses, Peterson leads Broadneck into Saturday's Class 4A-3A semifinals.
"Sam is our quarterback, dictating and setting the tempo for our offense and our defense," said White, whose 14-2 Bruins are ranked No. 9 in The Baltimore Sun poll. "I don't think I've seen him rattled yet."
In Tuesday night's 11-5 Class 4A-3A Region IV victory over South River, the Seahawks' scoring leader, Matt Czoka, fired a hard shot to the throat of the Broadneck keeper. Peterson was undaunted.
"[Injuries] are just part of the job. You can't cry over every hit you take," he said. "Most of the time, I get so mentally into the game that I don't notice any bruises until I get home. You just have to shake them off."
Peterson shook off Czoka's blast and contributed to the Bruins' third-quarter, 6-0 run that broke a 4-4 halftime tie.
"He made a couple of saves in crucial situations, and then he really gave them momentum with sharp outlet passes," said South River coach Greg Carroll. "If he's not hurting you in the cage, he's hurting you offensively. He can really run the show."
When his recreation league coach first assigned Peterson to his new position, unlike a lot of youngsters he saw it as an opportunity to be in control -- not only of his own destiny, but also that of the team. In fact, says his sister, he liked it too much for his own good.
A former lacrosse player at Severna Park, Chittim knows a lot about defense. Her 11-4 Annapolis squad had perhaps the county's best defense, ending the year ranked No. 9 in the metro area after a Class 4A-3A Region IV runner-up finish to her alma mater.
"Sam was very intense, and at first he took it all too seriously," Chittim said. "If his team lost a game, he thought it was all his fault and he'd take it personally."
That's still true, to some extent.
"I knew it would be hard at first, directing the defense, but they've gained confidence in me," Peterson said. "Coach evaluated me at the beginning of the year and said he wanted me to be a leader, so that's my job every game."