The season is still a few months away, but Lancer football is underway and preparing for the future in more ways than one.
With summer on the horizon and spring football in full force, the Lancer football squad is preparing for what could be its toughest season in school history.
Orange Lutheran will not only face the Trinity League gauntlet, but will also take on Concord De La Salle, Corona Centennial, Crespi, and Vista Murrieta, all football powerhouses, in the preseason.
But just as the Lancers view their opponents as stiff tests, Orange Lutheran will stand out on opponents’ schedules as well, with a talented group of returners set to help the Lancers compete for the Trinity League title.
And if the Lancers’ talent for next season was ever in question, it is no longer, as nearly 75 college coaches and scouts have visited spring practice in the past few weeks. This includes nearly every Ivy League, Pac-12 and Mountain West school, and schools from every division of college football.
“I think having schools come out to practice is very energizing,” said OLu football coach Chuck Petersen about the influx of attendance. “I am proud of the way our boys practice every day, but there may be more energy on the days that coaches come out. It certainly confirms that we are doing things right when coaches comment how hard our kids practice, how well coached they are and how much our practices simulate what a college practice looks like.”
Rising senior offensive lineman Logan Bathke was recently offered a scholarship by UCLA, which adds to offers he’s received from Arizona and Arizona State. Rising senior and returning quarterback L.J. Northington has received offers from Air Force, Army, Navy and Cornell, and rising junior Brandon McKinney has an offer from Arizona State and is considered to be a national prospect in the future.
“The first thing coaches ask me is how good a student the kid is,” Petersen said about the initial steps in the recruiting process. “They want to know if he is committed in the classroom. They will also ask me about a kid's character and how he behaves off the field.
“The last thing they ask me is about his athletic ability,” he added. “Certainly, being a great football player is important, but the other things weigh more in the process.”
Coach Petersen can speak in regards to the recruiting process considering he has firsthand experience scouting high school kids. Petersen coached for 17 seasons at his alma mater Air Force, and is the only Trinity League head coach to have coached on the Division 1 college level.
“I tell the kids, control the things that you can control,” Petersen said. “Recruiting is like ice cream. Most everyone likes ice cream, but some people like vanilla and some like strawberry. Just because you don't fit the mold for one school doesn't mean someone else won't like you. You can't control how big you are but you can control how hard you work in the classroom, how you treat other people and how hard you work on the field.”
Coach Petersen has made it a habit to inform kids about the positives and negatives of the recruiting process. Sometimes, players focus more on their actions on the field as opposed to off the field, under the false pretense that individual athletic skill is the sole avenue to earning a scholarship and playing on the collegiate level.
But as Coach Petersen tells it, in order to make it to the next level, it takes the skill and the grades, as well as patience, understanding, and the ability to work well in a team environment.
“Recruiting is a big numbers game. Each school has a set number of scholarships by position that they will recruit. And in some years, they may not be looking for a particular position. Football is one of the last sports where playing well for your high school is still the most important thing.
“It is key for players to understand that what is important is the here and now,” he added. “The majority of players won’t play beyond high school and that is okay. The greatest four years of their lives will be what they are doing in high school, so it’s important to enjoy every minute of it.”
Recruiting aside, Petersen and his staff are more concerned with using the game as a vehicle to prepare kids for college and most importantly, for life.
“My joy always comes from my guys graduating from Orange Lutheran better men than when they came to me and knowing that our football program has played a role in their spiritual development,” Petersen said. “It is always fun to see them accomplish their goals. If that means that they play at the next level, then so be it.
“That doesn't mean that those that don't play are any less significant and I am just as proud of them and am excited to see how God uses each one of them for His glory.”