At Mt. He­bron, coach is a fa­ther fig­ure – re­ally

Se­nior Johnny Lin­sen­meyer is a stand­out for his dad

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Glenn Gra­ham

For Johnny Lin­sen­meyer, the late Novem­ber day in 2006 couldn’t have been any bet­ter.

He was in sec­ond grade, and just get­ting an early dis­missal from school was cool. He got the pass to hang out with his fa­ther, Mike, the boys soc­cer coach at Mount He­bron, as the Vikings were play­ing for a state cham­pi­onship at UMBC Sta­dium.

Young Johnny soaked in the locker room ex­cite­ment be­fore the big game. Sit­ting on the team bench, he saw no panic when the op­po­nent, North Car­roll, scored the game’s first goal.

Af­ter the Vikings got the ty­ing goal, Mike Mike Lin­sen­meyer

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Clo­sures af­fect sched­ules Napoli­tano scored the win­ner in the clos­ing min­utes: Mount He­bron 2, North Car­roll 1. Ju­bi­la­tion fol­lowed. “I re­mem­ber it vividly,” said Lin­sen­meyer.

“It seemed like the whole school was there and it was just such a fun day, so ex­cit­ing.”

The Lin­sen­mey­ers were at the school’s weight room fol­low­ing a prac­tice ear­lier

this month — Mike now in his 15th sea­son as coach and Johnny a 17-year-old se­nior cap­tain — re­call­ing many of the fond mem­o­ries they’ve shared through soc­cer over the years. The ear­li­est was when Johnny was around 3 years old, small enough for the play­ers to put him in an equip­ment bag and gen­tly toss him around.

The fa­ther and son were also shak­ing their heads, find­ing it hard to be­lieve that Johnny is a se­nior set for his fourth var­sity sea­son as the team’s cen­ter-mid­fielder.

Af­ter field­ing qual­ity teams the past three sea­sons with dis­ap­point­ing fin­ishes (the Vikings have been elim­i­nated in the re­gion play­offs on penalty kicks in each), the per­fect end­ing to Johnny’s high school ca­reer would be get­ting out of school early again for a chance at an­other big win on the sea­son’s fi­nal day.

“It’s hard to be­lieve this is the last year I’ll be in­volved with [Mount He­bron soc­cer] be­cause, since I can re­mem­ber, I’ve been com­ing to prac­tices and then play­ing for the team,” Johnny said. “We’re def­i­nitely try­ing to use the past three years as mo­ti­va­tion. The whole team is re­ally com­mit­ted, and the tra­di­tion that He­bron is known for seems to be wrapped up into this sea­son. We’re all work­ing hard and it’s com­ing to­gether.”

For a fa­ther and son, the coach-player re­la­tion­ship can be tricky, but the Lin­sen­mey­ers have been able to han­dle it suc­cess­fully.

Com­ing in as a fresh­man, it was ap­par­ent Johnny had the skills and sense to earn a start­ing spot. The ques­tion was where he would play. cross coun­try field hockey, volleyball foot­ball girls soc­cer

“He was small, skinny and slow, and out­side-mid­field wasn’t a good place. So we moved him in the mid­dle of the field [at at­tack­ing cen­ter-mid­field] and he was get­ting the ball moved around quickly and it looked like he should be there,” Mike Lin­sen­meyer said. “I asked the se­niors, the lead­ers on the team, to make sure, and they said, ‘Yeah, Johnny needs to be there.’ ”

Johnny Lin­sen­meyer has been a stand­out ever since.

Last sea­son, he scored 12 goals and added seven as­sists to lead the Vikings to their first out­right Howard County ti­tle since 2006. The Howard County Times named him the county’s Player of the Year.

In soc­cer-rich Howard County, the Lin­sen­mey­ers have im­pres­sive fa­ther-son acts to fol­low. At Oak­land Mills, long­time coach Don Shea sa­vored his time with his son, Trevor. At River Hill, it was for­mer coach Bill Stara and his son, Matt. At Atholton, for­mer coach Roch DeFrances led his son, Scott.

Don Shea watched his son en­joy a stand­out game to help the Scor­pi­ons win a state ti­tle and has seen a fa­mil­iar trait in Johnny Lin­sen­meyer.

“Big play­ers play big in the big games, and I’ve seen Johnny save Mike’s be­hind a cou­ple times,” Shea said. “One year, he scored a banger left foot that beat two kids with maybe five min­utes left in the game. It was a Fri­day night and they beat Long Reach, 2-1, and I re­mem­ber say­ing to Mike: ‘Hey, he saved you there be­cause you would have had a hel­luva week­end if you would have had turned around and lost or went into over­time.’ ”

The Lin­sen­meyer house­hold rule was es­tab­lished at the start of Johnny’s high school ca­reer. The two had the drives to and from school, prac­tices and games to chat soc­cer, but Mike’s wife, Brigid, in­sisted that the talk didn’t come through the front door.

“I think we do a de­cent job sep­a­rat­ing coach-dad at the house. It’s very rarely that I let it carry over past the ride home,” Mike said. “I think my wife would ac­tu­ally kill me. From day one, that was her thing: It’s not go­ing to hap­pen. And she’s right about just about ev­ery­thing, so I have def­i­nitely lis­tened to her.”

Mike is proud and mod­est when the sub­ject turns to just how good Johnny has be­come. “He’s smart and he’s un­selfish and makes the right play when it mat­ters the most,” he said.

Last sea­son, Howard County ri­val Cen­ten­nial came into its reg­u­lar-sea­son game with the Vikings un­de­feated in county play. Johnny put an end to that with a shot from the top of the penalty area — a one-timer with his left foot to the top cor­ner — that was the dif­fer­ence in a 3-2 win. For a coach, there’s noth­ing bet­ter. It’s even bet­ter when the coach is also Dad.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing what a big goal that was to win it,” Mike said. “And I was driv­ing home with his mom say­ing, ‘He ac­tu­ally may be pretty good.’ That was a big Af­ter three years in which Mount He­bron has been elim­i­nated in the re­gion play­offs, Johnny Lin­sen­meyer has set his sights on chang­ing that end­ing this sea­son. goal and he was such a big part of that game.”

Johnny’s fi­nal sea­son ar­rives with big ex­pec­ta­tions. Mount He­bron has an­other tal­ented group back with po­ten­tial. The Lin­sen­mey­ers — both fiercely com­pet­i­tive — will be do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to get the most of it. They plan to sa­vor the ride.

“I’ve just started to re­al­ize that the four years goes by re­ally fast and that doesn’t hit you un­til your se­nior year. I’m hope­fully go­ing to in­still a good work ethic into my team­mates, be pos­i­tive with them and help them as much as I can,” Johnny said. “I just got to push my team … and make them re­al­ize it doesn’t last for­ever.”

CAITLIN FAW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Johnny Lin­sen­meyer, mid­dle, ended last sea­son with 12 goals and seven as­sists for Mount He­bron, lead­ing the Vikings to their first out­right Howard County ti­tle since 2006.

CAITLIN FAW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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