SOMETIMES THE starting quarterback has to be the head cheerleader, too. As Lutheran High (Orange, Calif.) watched its 23--0 lead dwindle to one point with six minutes to go last Friday, Aaron Corp began stalking the sideline, telling teammates not to worry and assuring them in the most emphatic terms that victory was in sight. Just let the offense get back on the field, Corp said, and they would whip Poly ( Long Beach, Calif.) and win the semifinal of the CIF-SS Pac-5 playoffs. "I wanted them to know that we would be fine," says Corp, one of the nation's top recruits. "I knew once I got the ball, we'd seal the deal."
He was as good as his word. With 1:05 remaining, Corp threw a nine-yard completion to tight end Blake Ayles for a first down that allowed Lutheran to run out the clock; the Lancers won 23--22, advancing to their first CIF championship game this Saturday, against Edison ( Huntington Beach, Calif.). No one has played a larger role in Lutheran's success than Corp, who has passed for 2,360 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 1,011 yards and nine scores this season. Says Lancers coach Jim Kunau, "He has a rare combination of courage, toughness, and intelligence."
Sports is in Corp's DNA. His father, Chris, was a wide receiver; his mother, Mary, played volleyball, both at Idaho State; and his younger sister, Lauren, is a volleyball star at Lutheran. He grew up dreaming of playing at USC, but two years ago, when his class started to get recruited, he wasn't in the Trojans' plans. " USC was very honest with us," says Chris Corp. "They said they were only pursuing Jimmy Clausen"--the QB from Oaks Christian ( Westlake Village, Calif.).
Luckily for Corp, however, Clausen decided to go to Notre Dame, and when the Trojans reformulated their plans, the 6'4", 185-pound QB from Lutheran was their first choice; he accepted a scholarship offer in May. Before Corp starts worrying about the Pac-10, though, he must get past Edison's swarming defense which has 24 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries this season. "We started this season with the thought of winning the CIF championship," says Corp, "and that's our focus."