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JEFF GRITCHEN , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Orange Lutheran football players after the school's signing day ceremony on Wednesday. Left to right; Scean Mustin committed to play football for Ohio University, Adam Heigis committed to play football for San Jose State, Alex Dalpe committed to play football for Sacramento State, Logan Bathke committed to play football for University of Oregon, Lj Northington committed to play football for Harvard, and Bleu Willis committed to play football for Kentucky Christian University.

Signing Day extra: Orange Lutheran isn't surprised Northington reached his Harvard goal

STAFF WRITER

ORANGE - Orange Lutheran football coach Chuck Petersen noticed Lj Northington’s leadership skills early.

“He was that guy that always led,” Petersen said. “When he first walked in the door, just because of his personality and he was, so good that the kids always responded to him, but as he became more mature as a person and athlete, he became more vocal and a guy that would actually talk and sit.

“He just has that aura about him.”

The senior quarterback passed for 1,855 yards with 14 touchdowns and rushed for 848 and 14 touchdowns as the Lancers advanced to the second round of the CIF-SS Pac-5 playoffs.

Wednesday, he fulfilled one of his dreams by signing with Harvard.

“I had to really work if I wanted to go to Harvard,” Northington said. “Spring after my junior year, stars kinds of aligned and things opened up for me, and I was blessed to get an offer over the summer. That’s when it became a reality that this (going to Harvard) might really be happening.

“It takes a different level of work and dedication.”

Two of Harvard’s top three quarterbacks were seniors last season. Northington is looking forward to fine tuning some areas of his game before he departs.

“I want to get bigger and stronger, to be able to take some hits,” he said. “I want to focus on my throwing mechanics, polish that up and just study the game and learn my playbook the best I can.”

LINE OF STRENGTH

A lot of the success for the Orange Lutheran football team in recent seasons can be attributed to its offensive line.

Three-fifths of that line participated Wednesday in a National Signing Day ceremony at Orange Lutheran.

“I’m blessed,” said Northington. “Not a lot of people can say that they got to work behind one of the best (offensive) lines in the country.

“They provided a great year for us.”

Right tackle Logan Bathke signed with Oregon, center Alex Dalpe signed with Sacramento State and left guard Adam Heigis signed with San Jose State.

When Bathke arrived at Orange Lutheran, he was splitting time between football field and the basketball court. He was 6-5 but weighed less than 190 pounds.

“Once I got my first (scholarship) offer for football after junior year, that’s when I stopped (playing basketball and focused on football,” Bathke said.

Bathke admitted that the recruiting process became a bit stressful, but said he “would do it again.”

“We pushed ourselves as hard as we can,” Bathke said of the offensive line. “You can see now, with three of the five signing, but just pushing ourselves constantly in practice and you see the hard work will pay off.”

PRACTICE PAYS OFF

Bleu Willis said he was intimidated a bit when he first started long snapping at Orange Lutheran.

“When I first got here, Chase Dominguez was still the snapper here,” Willis said. “He was one of the top snappers, but he and Viese (coach Dean Vieselmeyer) really helped me and out through the whole process. He was the one that taught me how to snap.”

Willis was the long snapper as a junior at the JV level and moved up to varsity for this past season.

The position switch paid off as Willis signed his letter of intent with Kentucky Christian University on Wednesday.

“I worked with Viese a lot, and I went out and got myself a personal snapping trainer (Chris Ramos),” Willis said. “He helped me a lot to refine my skills make things more crisp. He also helped me with my nerves because the first time I snapped in a JV game, I got really nervous and I messed up and after that week, we found him and started working with him and he taught me how to calm down and really get into my rhythm and start snapping.

“I never thought I would make it college on a scholarship. It is a great honor for me because I’m one of the few people in my family to get to go to college.”

SPECIAL DAY FOR PETERSEN

Petersen knows both sides of National Signing Day.

Although he recently completed his fourth year as coach of the Lancers, Petersen still relies on his ties in the college game that were developed during his 20-plus years at that level.

“First and foremost, the reputation we have as a school, academically and character-wise, they’re going to come through here,” Petersen said. “I have relationships all over the country, literally from Maine to California.

Petersen said that in his four years at Orange Lutheran, there have been 28 players sign to go play college football.

This year, the Lancers had six: Bathke, Northington, Heigis, Willis, Dalpe and Scean Mustin.

“This is a culmination of a lot of work, sweat and tears for each one of the kids that sign today, as well as their families,” Petersen said. “At the same time, it is just the beginning and they understand that. It is also a proud day for me.

“For me to say, we have six that are moving on and going to the next level, is pretty neat.”


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