Photo by Jeff Harwell/University of Akron – Former McKinleyville standout Bryce Petersen is the starting center for the Akron Zips.

Playing for a third different coaching staff in three years hasn’t been easy for Bryce Petersen, but it’s something he feels has made him a better player.

Petersen, a former McKinleyville High star, is the starting center for the Akron Zips, who open the season at Illinois on August 31st.

But after transferring from Riverside City CC to Akron before last season, the former Panthers star will play for a third different head coach in three years this fall, after the Zips replaced Terry Bowden with Tom Arth in December.

Petersen, however, appears to be taking it all in his stride.

“It’s been kind of interesting seeing the different ways the different staffs do stuff and run their programs,” he said. “And in a way, it’s been kind of nice. It’s kept me on my toes.”

Petersen, a 2017 Mack graduate, also likes what he’s seen so far from Arth, and what the new coach has brought to the program.

“Having a new coaching staff was a challenge at first, but I really feel it suits me as a player,” he said. “I like our scheme. We’re running more of a pro style offense.

“The staff, I can’t say enough good things about them. How hard they work, how much they care about the players, and it all starts with the head coach. He’s definitely going to be doing some big things in this game.”

Photo by Jeff Harwell/University of Akron

Preseason all-conference

Big things are expected out of the junior center as well.

This summer, Petersen was named to Lindy’s Sports All-Mid-American Conference preseason first team.

But Petersen expects to be competitive and is excited about playing on a line that returns four starters in 2019 and should be among the best in the MAC.

“Just having guys back that play quality football, and having a lot of experience, and not just a lot of experience but a lot of experience with each other, that’s big,” he said. “The offensive line is so much about communication and knowing each other.”

The Zips struggled down the stretch of last season, losing their final five games in a 4-8 campaign, but the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Petersen is confident there won’t be a repeat performance this season.

“We have a lot of players coming back,” he said. “And I know we have pretty high hopes this year.”

Photo by Jeff Harwell/University of Akron –


For Petersen, the switch to Akron almost didn’t come about, although it’s one he’s grateful for.

Coming home for Christmas break after his freshman season at Riverside City, the former Panther didn’t know where he was going to play next when Akron reached out to him in January and asked if he’d be interested in a visit.

The night before he was due to fly out the coach called again and offered him a scholarship.

“I literally threw all my stuff in a duffel bag and flew out,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have it happen.”

After getting over the initial “culture shock,” as he put it, the sports management major has settled in nicely and says he loves the school and the area, and has even adjusted to the weather.

“It’s a great place,” he said. “The people are awesome, they’re very nice, very welcoming. It’s really cool to experience a new part of the country.

“My football career has taken me to places quite honestly I never thought I’d be.”

Busy preparing

Since practice began on August 1st, Petersen has been busy preparing for the season opener, going from 7 a.m. to 10 at night between practice, walk throughs and studying game film.

That’s the life of a Division-I football player.

And he says his time at Mack High prepared him for that big step up.

“My experiences at McKinleyville were always good,” he said. “We didn’t win a lot, but I think it really made me appreciate everything, and I had such a good time at McKinleyville High. The friends I made and the memories I have are really awesome and ones I wouldn’t change for the world.”

Petersen is also expecting a tough time of it in the MAC this season.

“It’s a conference where anybody can beat anybody in any given game,” he said.


Ray Hamill writes at, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.