It’s been about 10 years since Orange Lutheran High School (Orange, Calif.) had a player selected for the All-American Bowl, quarterback Ryan Hilinski said.
This year, the school has two.
Four-star Hilinski and five-star wide receiver Kyle Ford received their jerseys at a ceremony on Friday afternoon.
“I’ve had two older brothers, Kelly and Tyler, that have gone through the process of being selected and going to the combine and stuff like that so I watch it every year,” Hilinski said.
Neither brother played in the game, though.
“I’m kind of fulfilling the dream for myself and for the both of them,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Hilinski won’t nudge them playfully about being selected when they weren’t.
Better yet, he gets to represent his school with a teammate.
This is a sign of where the Orange Lutheran football program can be. Despite playing in the gauntlet conference that is the Trinity League, the team is currently 5-5 with a playoff game on tap Friday night against Super 25 team Centennial High School (Corona, Calif.)
Ford said the standards of the team has been raised over the last two years.
“This place has always been a pretty good program, but I just feel like we just brought in a couple guys, not even including me and Ryan, just other guys that we’ve brought in too just really raised the level of the school and the level of what the standards should be,” Ford said. “Just trying to set that standard, and get better each year, even when we’re gone, and leave like a little legacy.”
The two, who both transferred to Orange Lutheran, have certainly made their marks at the school. Hilinski has 7,972 passing yards, 73 touchdowns and 24 interceptions over his three-year varsity career.
He’s the No. 2 pro-style QB in his class, per 247 Sports, and is committed to South Carolina, where his brother currently attends medical school.
Ford missed the majority of this season due to a knee injury, which will also cost him the opportunity to play in the All-American game, but he’s 247 Sports’ No. 5 wide receiver in the country and No. 3 player in California.
“Whenever I throw up a jump ball, those are those 50/50 balls, they’re usually 80/20s with Kyle,” Hilinksi said.
Ford is taking his official visit to Oregon over the weekend. He’s looking for a team that will give him early playing time, but he’s also looking for a strong education program. He’d like to learn how to run his own business – maybe a training center, so he can continue in the field of football when his playing days are done.
He’s continuing the game, but his days with Hilinski are at an end. The two have formed a close connection on and off the field, with Hilinksi calling the two “basically best friends.”
That helps them connect as a quarterback-wide receiver duo.
“Sometimes we won’t even talk about certain things, during the play it’ll just develop. And then it’s kind of like, oh, he knew I was going to do something and he just put a ball in a certain spot,” Ford said.
They’ve taken that chemistry to Fortnite, which is their primary non-football-related activity together. Hilinski said he’s better.
“For sure me,” he said. “He’ll tell you opposite, but it’s for sure me.”
For perhaps the first time this season, he was wrong about Ford’s answer. But as usual, they were on the same page.
“I think he’s a little better, I’m not going to lie,” Ford said.
But they’re just as good teammates online as they are on the gridiron.
“That’s my guy,” Ford said. “Gotta get wins on the field and off.”
The All-American Bowl, formerly the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, is scheduled for Jan. 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and will be televised live on NBC at 1 p.m. EST.