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PREP FOOTBALL '97: SMALL SCHOOLS

He's Planning Big Future On and Off Field

Orange Lutheran's Lerch has impressive academic credentials to go along with his numbers as a linebacker/tight end.

September 09, 1997|DAN ARRITT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ORANGE — Eric Lerch's parents are gone for the weekend and he couldn't be happier.

"This gives me time to get caught up with things," he said. "When my parents are out of town I seem to get more done."

His bedroom floor is littered with letters, envelopes and brochures as he attempts to organize a summer's worth of paperwork. With his folks out of the house, he can easily expand his operation into larger quarters.

Saying Lerch is not an average teenager would be an accurate statement, but that characterization needs further definition when detailing him.

Lerch is a star football player at Orange Lutheran. He also sings in the school choir. He eventually wants to become a doctor or archeologist.

Lerch scored a 1430 on the Scholastic Assessment Test, but will take it again because he says he can score higher.

"I don't put a lot of high expectations on athletics," he said, "but I do put a lot of pressure on academics."

Not your average teenager.

"I have a really wide range of interests," Lerch said. "I really like having all hard classes, too."

Lerch, a 6-2, 210-pound linebacker/tight end, is carrying a 4.15 grade-point average into his senior year at Orange Lutheran. He also has been named team captain of the Olympic League defending champions.

"He's the consummate student/athlete," Orange Lutheran Coach Jim Kunau said. "He's a major contributor in varsity basketball, he's involved in drama and multiple honors classes."

Lerch is busy getting organized after spending most of his summer carefully plotting his future. Toward the end of June, Lerch, Kunau and seven teammates flew to Chicago, then packed into two small cars and drove around the Midwest visiting colleges.

First they stopped at Illinois, then Indiana, then the group paid a visit to Ohio State, and finished off at Notre Dame.

"It was a good sampling of colleges," Lerch said. "I remember walking around Ohio State and our guides were telling us how the whole senior class got drafted by the NFL last season."

Lerch also went to separate summer camps at Dartmouth and Northwestern.

"Northwestern was a real neat trip because their system of offense is a lot like ours," Lerch said. "I picked up a lot of things, they taught me a lot of techniques. They explain everything real well and then they have really good results to back it up."

Orange Lutheran has had some eye-catching results in recent years as well. The Lancers were Southern Section finalists in 1994 and 1995, and advanced to the semifinals last season.

This year it appears Orange Lutheran will have its hands full when it comes to matching those results, Lerch said. But the last three teams were not predicted to do well, either.

"We have some big expectations to live up to," Lerch said. "The last two teams I've been on had so much talent and this year there's not as much. But just like the last few years, on paper we don't look that strong."

If the game were played on paper, Lerch probably would have the advantage. He scored a 710 on the verbal portion of the SAT, and a 720 on the math.

Lerch remembers his elementary-school years when his days began at 4 a.m. so he could get from Corona to Long Beach, where he continued to attend school in his former neighborhood. He believes those were the years that he learned to enjoy studying just to pass the time.

"I've been that way ever since," Lerch said.

Lerch said he has tremendous support from the teachers, coaches and staff at Orange Lutheran as he winds his way through his busy daily schedule.

"My coaches are real understanding and all the other teachers I work with, I have their support as well," Lerch said. "I know I have to be here on that day, or there on that day. I try to let all the teachers and coaches know what I'll be doing."

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