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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Orange Lutheran's Parker Flynn a vital foot soldier

The kicker's accuracy, leg strength and ability to handle pressure place him in elite company.

September 03, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

There's a single goal post standing on the Orange Lutheran practice field, and behind it are lots of parked cars with windshields that might shatter if struck in the right spot.

Coach Jim Kunau has to remind Parker Flynn to move back when practicing field goals, because his kicks sometimes act like heat-seeking missiles -- they soar over the crossbar and find the cars.

"Back up," Kunau called out to Flynn during a workout last spring.

It's not only accuracy and leg strength that make Flynn one of the top kickers in the Southland. It's his ability to handle pressure that places him in elite company.

Last November, he was put in the position any top kicker dreams about -- the chance to win a game. It happened against Trinity League rival Santa Ana Mater Dei and Flynn delivered, making a 43-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the Lancers a 24-21 victory.

"I was out of it," Flynn said. "I wasn't feeling anything, which is kind of good because none of the nerves or the crowd got to me. After I made it, I didn't want to celebrate too much because I wanted to act like I've been there before."

The next school day, Flynn enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.

"It was quite different because everyone was praising me," he said.

Such is life for a kicker, who can go from anonymity to the focus of everyone's attention in the blink of an eye. A kicker's ability to deal with the potential highs and lows that come with the job is as important as his physical skills. And Flynn has shown he can thrive when people are paying attention.

"What I like about kicking is those pressure situations with everyone watching you," he said. "That energy -- I live for it."

Flynn made six of nine field goals last season. Close to 70% of his kickoffs went into the end zone. In a Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff game against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, five of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, an important reason the Knights were stuck in bad field position and suffered an upset defeat.

"He's very tough mentally," Kunau said. "I never felt anything fazed him. We'll use him as a weapon as much as possible because he performs so well under pressure."

Flynn was a soccer player for 10 years until dropping the sport last school year to focus on kicking for the football team. He trains with private kicking instructor Chris Sailer, who projects a bright future for the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior.

"Technically, he's very sound," Sailer said. "He's a proven guy. He's extremely accurate."

He lives down the street from Lutheran and can walk to school and to practice, though teammates like to tease him with the usual one-liners directed at kickers who never seem to participate in conditioning drills.

"Do something!" they tell him.

"I think the real world of kicking is you don't go to any meetings, you just hang out," Flynn said. "You don't get taken too seriously because you're really not that athletic, but I'm trying to change that. Sometimes if you mess up, you're put in the spotlight because you're not used that often. It's kind of like you're only as good as your last kick."

And Flynn is fine with that kind of pressure and expectation.

"I think I have a good shot at being a college kicker because I've been set up in these experiences," he said. "At Lutheran, the crowd atmosphere is like college games."

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Top 10 kickers

Eric Sondheimer's top high school kickers in the Southland. An expanded list is available at www.latimes.com/preps.

*--* KICKER SCHOOL HT, WT YR. COMMENT Nick Diaz Redondo 5-7, 175 Sr. A top-flight field-goal kicker. Parker Flynn Orange Lutheran 5-11, 170 Sr. Clutch and booms kickoffs into end zone. Matt Goudis Chaminade 5-11, 170 Jr. Makes field goals, sends punts high and far. Donald Jarrin San Pedro 5-8, 160 Sr. Made 11 of 13 field goals. Connor Loftus Servite 6-0, 180 Jr. One of the strongest legs in Orange County. Alejandro Maldonado Colton 6-0, 175 Sr. Committed to Washington. Stephen Picchini Moorpark 6-0, 165 Sr. Made two 47-yard field goals last season. Joe Roberts Woodbridge 6-1, 190 Sr. Makes field goals, handles pressure. Trevor Romaine Corona Centennial 5-11, 170 Sr. Top all-around kicker. Jake Van Ginkel Upland 6-0, 175 Jr. Had nine field goals last season. *--*

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