Quarterback Sterling Somers this fall has been most responsible for delivering footballs to Jordan Wittenberg. He could also be credited for delivering Wittenberg to Lynden’s football program.
Wittenberg, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior all-purpose player most known for his receiving skills, was a soccer player before Somers’ dad in fifth grade challenged him to come play football.
“He said, ‘Come out, see what you got,’” Wittenberg said, “so he threw me at receiver, and I’ve played that position ever since fifth grade about.”
Lynden has reaped the benefits, and after flashing his talent toward the end of the season, Wittenberg has emerged as one of the Northwest Conference’s top all-around players.
His play will be critical when the Lions vie for their fourth consecutive Class 2A state championship against NWC opponent Sedro-Woolley at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Tacoma Dome.
Wittenberg’s been a model of consistency during a year in which the Lions have been hampered by injuries.
The junior wideout’s 83 receptions and 1,420 yards are both school single-season records, and his 14 touchdowns equal the most in program history.
“There is more that goes into it than one guy,” Kramme said, “ but his numbers from an individual standpoint are very impressive considering some of the players that have been in the football program. I’m happy for him, but it’s never about individual accomplishments.”
Wittenberg knows he hasn’t put together this special season by himself. He has a talented cast of receivers around him, a tremendous signal-caller distributing him the ball and a line consisting of Bryce Sterk, Jensen Mayberry, Caden Lair, Tanner Steele and Derron Dunnigan that’s given Somers ample time to pick apart defenses.
“I think it’s just hard work,” Wittenberg said. “Us receivers come out ready to go everyday. I have to give it to Sterling and the line. The line gives (Somers and Clark Hazlett) time to throw, and Sterling he works his tail off to give us an opportunity to make a play.”
And Wittenberg himself is just a big play waiting to happen.
Nine times he’s went over the century mark in receiving yards, half of his 14 TDs have been 20 yards or longer and he’s been especially strong of late, scoring seven touchdowns since the Lions began their postseason run against Shorecrest four weeks ago.
Not only is Wittenberg’s ball skills second to none, his run after catch is fantastic. He’s hard to bring down in the open field, and his game-breaking ability has increased since he’s been working on getting north and south rather than moving sideline to sideline.
“He has been a tremendous player for us and doesn’t come of the field,” Kramme said. “He’s a two-way starter, and (plays) special teams. He is a guy who at any moment can change the game, big-play guy. The highest praise I can give a guy is saying I’m really proud he plays for us. He’d be a hard guy to have a game plan for.”
Each year since fifth grade Wittenberg has played football with Somers. The pair’s chemistry has developed, and their connection has flourished this fall.
Wittenberg, who got his first start in the postseason, recorded 287 receiving yards and a touchdown on 19 receptions last season, and that season-ending rapport he displayed with Somers has carried over in a big way.
“Sterling seems to anticipate where Jordan is going to be,” Kramme said. “You can draw up plays and say this is how it’s going to work, but in reality you have to make adjustments, and those two seem to have a sixth sense on what’s going on and don’t have to spend time thinking about it.”
Wittenberg’s play may be more visible on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s proved to be a dangerous kick and punt returner as well as a quality cornerback.
While the Lions have battled myriad injuries to the secondary, Wittenberg all year has anchored one corner while playing with tremendous efficiency.
“I wasn’t a defensive player growing up, kind of scared to hit, one of those small guys,” Wittenberg explained, “but high school is different. You have to be in every play and stick your nose in there. It’s fun flying around making plays.”
Wittenberg’s part of a defense that’s yielding 159 pass yards per game, with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. While he’s been tested, Kramme said he’s a guy teams try to avoid throwing at if possible. He’s also athletic and physical enough, Kramme said the team’s linebacker coach would love him to play inside linebacker if he wasn’t more valuable at his cornerback position.
Playing so many spots, it’s hard to say for sure where Wittenberg will make his largest impact against Sedro-Woolley, but he’ll surely make a difference somewhere.