CHATHAM, NJ - Peter Schelling has something going for him that can't be taught.
The Chatham running back can see the smallest opening on a football field and turn it into big yardage.
"Pete will take a little sliver of an opening, a crack, and turn it into a giant play," Cougar left guard Lucas Reasons said. "He finds a crease and goes off. When he's in the open field he has great vision, and he's deceptively fast. He just breaks away."
Such was the case on Friday night when Schelling scored three touchdowns, including the winning 36-yard TD run with 1:36 left (see below) that lifted Chatham to its first win of the season, 28-21, over Madison.
The winning TD burst capped a game in which Schelling had scoring runs of 43 and 36 yards and a catch that he turned into a 69-yard touchdown play. Defensively, he also intercepted a pass, setting up his first TD. His 226 all-purpose yards represented 68 percent of the total yards gained by the Cougars in the game.
Peter Schelling is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"We learned last year that he always keeps going," Chatham right tackle Will Duff said. "He just puts his head down and goes. He's always the first one to say nice block or good play. He's not a big rah-rah guy, but when you see someone make plays like he does, it makes you want to follow his lead. We're happy for him to get all these accolades because it shows how hard we're working to get those holes open."
The 6-1, 170-pound Schelling has been a marked man when it comes to opposing defenses because he was one of the top returning offensive players for the Cougars. That extra attention makes it more difficult for Schelling, but his inner drive gives the offensive linemen incentive to make a block that could spring him.
"Whenever I touch the ball, I'm looking for the hole where I can get as many yards as I can," Schelling said. "(Against Madison) The holes were wide open and I could easily see them. Even the receivers were blocking downfield for me.
"I feel like I have pretty good vision. I'm always looking, just in case the hole is clogged up, I'll look to the other side. Say I break a tackle and the guy on the backside decides to jog to the football, that's when I'm running for a touchdown."
Schelling has made running into the end zone look easy on a number of occasions this season, especially on kickoff returns. In the season opener at Morris Hills, Schelling made the first kick return of his career and took it 80 yards for a touchdown. The next week against Mount Olive, he broke another long kickoff return for a TD that was nullified by a penalty. Then, against Millburn, he made a 95-yard return for a touchdown.
On three official returns, he has 195 yards and two touchdowns. Since then, no team has dared to kick it long to him, preferring shorter squib kicks to keep the ball out of his hands.
"I know they're not kicking to me," Schelling said. "Whenever I get the chance, I'm going to try and take advantage of it."
In five games this season, Schelling has been Chatham's top offensive weapon with a team-leading eight touchdowns for 48 points, which represents 62 percent of the point production for Chatham. He also has accumulated 739 all-purpose yards, an average of 147.8 yards per game.
As if that wasn't enough, Schelling earned his way into the starting safety position, making him a two-way player in the last two games.
"What stands out is the amount of work that's being asked of him and he's been able to focus in and really get it done. It's a testament to him." Chatham head coach Dan Czepiga said.
"He has great vision, where he can see where there is an opening. The play on the sideline (69-yard TD catch, see below) is an example. It looked like it was bottled up. That's the coaching point, keep on your block because you don't know where he's going to break it. It's tough to teach running backs vision. It's something that's unique and that's what he's got."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.