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Orange Lutheran football coach Rod Sherman organized a few team-building activities after being hired in May, but one particularly hit seniors Jaylen Lynch and Desmin Jackson.
The Lancers traveled on two buses over the summer to Bolsa Chica State Beach, where players took a break between Spikeball games and scarf pizza to wash a teammate’s feet in the ocean. . The exercise was based on the biblical story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper on the eve of his crucifixion.
“It was amazing,” recalls Lynch, who washed the feet of junior cornerback Keon Washington. “It brought us together as a team, my brothers. It was crazy.”
Jackson washed the feet of junior linebacker Gabe Morin. “It sounded like a thing of respect,” he said, “and a way to bring us together.”
Since then, the Orange Lutheran link has been secure.
The third-seeded Lancers (9-4) credit their improved chemistry as one of the driving forces behind a race in the CIF-SS Division 2 championship game. They will play Alemany (8-4) on Saturday at 7pm.
“We’re more together than last year,” said senior left tackle Zack Miller. “Last year was just tough with COVID. For a moment, it looked like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
“This year,” he added, “everyone got rid of that burden. We play together as a unit. We are really on the move in the last few weeks.
After finishing fifth in the Trinity League, the Lancers beat Simi Valley, Corona del Mar and Sierra Canyon in the playoffs to reach their first section final since December 2006. That fall, the Lancers beat Edison 30-20 for the Pac-5 division. title with Sherman as offensive coordinator.
Sherman knew before that game that he would soon be leaving to coach at Valor Christian High School in Colorado. But life returned to Orange Lutheran in May when he replaced JP Presley, who was fired after four seasons.
Sherman has ushered in more changes than foot washing.
He brought in Aaron Corp, his 2006 team star quarterback, from the college ranks to serve as the offensive coordinator. The Lancers’ offense became more aggressive with wide receivers Lynch, Kaleb Marshall, Malik Blackmon, Pierce Brown and Hayden Faraday running more vertical routes down the field.
Corp and Sherman also deployed the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Jackson as a versatile running back in the mold of NFL star Christian McCaffrey, whom Sherman coached for four years at Valor.
Jackson, a recent engagement with Ivy League co-champion Dartmouth, responded with 1,018 rushing yards and 50 receptions leading the team for 535 yards.
“It is unreal that Des can come out of the backfield,” said Orange Lutheran quarterback Logan Gonzalez.
Co-offensive line coaches Chris Ward and Jesse Sosebee worked with the Lancers to better protect Gonzalez. The senior responded with 3,271 passing yards and 38 touchdowns, including 15 in the playoffs against a single interception.
In defense, Orange Lutheran implemented several fronts under the guidance of coordinator Dubhe Ramirez and hammered tackling technique and gap control. The secondary has notably collected three assists against Mater Dei, including two from Blackmon.
The Lancers also built valuable confidence as they went 5-0 in non-league games, including a season opener win over Division 3 runner-up Serra.
But any X’s and O’s work and pattern adjustments won’t matter if a team is split. The Lancers have combined their tactics with their unit to find a force Sherman hopes to take off the field and into the lives of the players.
“It’s a family environment,” said senior linebacker Jayden Niumata. “These guys are my brothers.”