It’s already been a remarkable season for Dartmouth College football. The Big Green is 8-0, leading the Ivy League, and ranked No. 9 for Week 11 of the Football Championship Subdivision season.
Dartmouth is winning by an average of 25.75 points per game, and the team’s closest call was a 9-6 win at Harvard on a Hail Mary pass on the last play.
Last weekend the Big Green won for the 20th time in their last 21 outings, defeating Princeton 27-10 in Yankee Stadium to snap the Tigers’ 17-game winning streak.
But unless one is an alumnus, why should fans in Loudoun pay much attention to a college football team way up in New England? Because a couple of Dartmouth’s contributors call Loudoun home.
Anders Peterson and David Chalmers are products of Leesburg’s Tuscarora High School, now suiting up for Dartmouth in their final seasons of eligibility.
The two took different paths to Hanover, New Hampshire, but they find themselves in a familiar situation: Helping a football program rise to prominence.
Peterson and Chalmers were part of the Huskies’ first teams, enduring initial growing pains to become a playoff fixture by their graduations. Now they’ve been part of Dartmouth’s ascent, seeing the Big Green move from the bottom of the league in 2016 to a possible championship in 2019.
The scenery has changed for the former Huskies, but the winning results -- and the process that has lead to it -- is much the same.
Peterson finds his game
Peterson was the first of the two to be recruited by Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens. Being recruited at all was something of a surprise to him, having never played football before high school.
“I was told that if I played football, I’d be an offensive lineman. So I looked at what the offensive linemen did and said, I don’t want to do that,” Peterson said with a laugh.
By the time he was a junior, however, he was getting interest from the likes of Virginia Tech.
“I never gave a thought to playing college football, and here’s Virginia Tech watching me play and wanting to talk to me,” Peterson said.
Other schools called too, and Peterson opted to take the Ivy League opportunity. After a two-year church mission, he battled injuries his first two college seasons. Peterson has played in all eight games in his senior campaign, which he called “an absolute blast so far.”
“It’s such a fun, thoughtful offense,” he said. “Really great to be a part of. He’s one of the best coaches in the FCS, for sure.”
He likened his current coach, Teevens, to Michael Burnett, Tuscarora’s head coach when Peterson and Chalmers were part of the Huskies’ fledgling program. It was Burnett who got the eighth-grader Peterson interested in being a football player.
“I loved being around the guys and the coaches,” he said, recalling Burnett’s visit to his middle school. “So after a couple weeks I thought that, hey, even if I was playing offensive lineman, this would be fun to do. Then of course I ended up loving the offensive line position, had a blast all throughout high school.”
Helping Tuscarora rise to local football prominence was part of the pleasure for Peterson, who fondly recalled pivotal early wins like a surprise victory over Loudoun County in the Huskies’ second season.
“We were a ragtag group of football players and we believed we could win. That was the culture Coach Burnett had instilled in us,” he said.
The camaraderie engendered by both coaches is part of football’s appeal to Peterson.
“Coach Teevens visited my family and we fell in love with him. When I visited up here, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be,” Peterson said. “Both Coach Burnett and Coach Teevens see football as an opportunity to become men. I’ve learned lessons from both I’ll forever be grateful for.
“I was just your everyday kid playing video games. But before football I’d never really pushed myself and learned how to work. I feel very fortunate.”
Chalmers recovers nicely
Peterson was recruited before Chalmers, but it was Chalmers who got to show his old teammate around when Peterson arrived at Dartmouth for the 2016 season.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Peterson said. “I was on my mission and my family emailed me to say he was up at Dartmouth playing football. It was awesome that when I got up to New Hampshire, there’d be someone that I know.”
Chalmers picked Peterson up, showed him to the dormitory, and helped him get his student ID card. The two have been teammates for most of the past decade, and look to end their careers together on the highest note.
“After the first few games of the season, I looked around and said, whoa, we have a complete team here,” said Chalmers, who is in his fifth year in the program after being granted a medical hardship waiver last season. “Everyone’s locked in, laser-focused, and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Chalmers has been a defensive force for the Big Green, registering 16 tackles and two pass breakups in seven games. It’s a marked contrast to his final season in high school, when knee surgery caused him to miss all action.
That injury also nearly derailed Chalmers’ college recruitment.
“A lot of coaches were turned off,” he said. “But I went on a visit, sat down with Coach Teevens and told him about the torn ACL in my knee. He actually smiled and said, that's awesome, we get you for an extra year of working out.”
Teevens’ positive outlook on Chalmers’ injury sealed the player’s commitment to the Dartmouth program. The support he’s since found in college resembles that which he enjoyed at Tuscarora.
“I came in as a little dude my freshman year,” said Chalmers about his time at Tuscarora. “Those coaches really cared about all the guys in the program and developing you into whatever you wanted to become.”
Chalmers fondly recalls several games in a Tuscarora uniform, most particularly an away date versus Martinsburg.
“We look up and we’re down 14-0 right off the jump,” he remembered. “We clawed our way back into it and ended up winning. I think back to that game all the time, as exemplifying the expectation of winning we always had.”
Chalmers was part of the Huskies’ 14-1 campaign and run to the state title game in 2014. He draws a parallel with that team and the 2019 Dartmouth edition.
“The feeling I had my senior year in high school is very similar to the feeling I have here now, that expectation of doing well,” he said. “We’re having a lot of fun being together as a team, and it’s showing on the field.”
Dartmouth looks to go 9-0 with a home game Saturday versus Cornell.
Position: Offensive lineman
Weight: 290 lbs
Highlights: Regular in first injury-free college season; All-State second team in 2013
Position: Defensive tackle
Weight: 290 lbs
Highlights: All-Ivy League second team in 2018; All-State first team in 2014