Atholton's Jake Peretti finds state interceptions record hard to believe

Two days later, Atholton safety Jake Peretti still could hardly believe he set a state record with five interceptions in Friday night’s game.

“It really didn’t hit me until today what happened,” the senior said Sunday. “I heard people talking about it, but I didn’t really believe it. Today, my dad told me it was the record, that they looked it up and it was. I don’t know how to describe the feeling.”

Atholton coach Justin Carey said the Raiders (2-1) wouldn’t have beaten Oakland Mills, 17-14, without Peretti’s interceptions, though no one knew at the time he had set a state record. He had 101 return yards and also had 16 tackles.

He has six interceptions in three games. He had two in the previous week’s win over Wilde Lake but lost one of them to a penalty.

“He saved us,” said Carey.

“In the heat of the moment as a head coach looking at the big picture, we were down by two scores early, so I was hoping we could capitalize off those,” he said. “With the adrenaline of the game, it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. Just reflecting after the game, it’s like, ‘Wow. He really did that.’ I’m thankful for our kids and I’m proud of Jake.”

Peretti, who took last season off from football, actually picked off six passes, but a penalty negated one of them. He seemed to be everywhere the ball was, and he said that was by design.

“We knew they like to throw deep balls and we knew the quarterback’s favorite receiver was No. 8, so I was watching the quarterback and keeping the receiver in my peripheral vision,” he said. “That [interception] in the end zone, our coaches lined that one up perfectly. It was designed for me. We knew that play was coming. All I had to do was what they told me.”

On the pick in the end zone — his fourth — Peretti raced from the middle of the goal line to his right to jump in front of the receiver and snag the pass. His final interception came in the open field, where he caught the ball at the Scorpions’ 38-yard line and returned it to the 12. That set up the game-winning field goal.

Carey, in his second season with the Raiders, said he knew Peretti would be a starter when he saw him play in 7-on-7 ball over the summer.

“He has long range at the safety spot, and he covers a lot of ground and high-points the football like he’s a wide receiver,” Carey said. “It’s a pretty unique skill set that I haven’t had in a while and he comes downhill to make tackles. His range is pretty good as a safety, and he always happens to be in the right spot. Once the ball’s in the air, he has a knack for being where he’s supposed to be.”

There’s plenty of credit for the record to go around, Peretti said.

“I had a lot of help from the defensive line,” he said. “They were pressuring the quarterback and made him make some throws he probably wouldn’t have.”

Peretti, who also plays lacrosse for Atholton, said he had gotten a little tired of football, which he has played since he was 7, so he took last season off. Although he’s being recruited for lacrosse, he’s not sure he will play a sport in college.

After Friday night’s game, Carey would like him to consider football.

With six interceptions in three games, it’s hard not to think Peretti could make a run at the state single-season record of 15, but in a Howard County league in which most teams rely on the run, he knows that might be a stretch.

“No other teams throw like that,” he said. “I’m not going to have that many opportunities against another team. I had to make the most of my chances when I had them.”

Now, he stands alone in the record book ahead of eight players who have had four interceptions each. Only one of those players was from the Baltimore area — Archbishop Spalding’s Chase Sturn, who did it in 2004. Most recently, Blake’s Ty Mason had four interceptions in a game last September.

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