In many ways, Mt. Hebron's Johnny Linsenmeyer says his senior season played out exactly how he would have scripted it in his head.
His offensive numbers were better across the board, helping the Vikings win back-to-back county titles for the first time in program history and capture their first region championship since 2011. After being named Howard County Player of the Year as a junior, he backed it up with arguably an even more successful final year in almost every aspect.
And yet, as it turned out, in order for him and his teammates to get where they were trying to go this fall, Linsenmeyer had to actually do something that he says had never previously crossed his mind.
"My whole life, going all the way back to rec ball, I've been a central midfielder. That's just my natural position. But early in the season, after we lost to Reservoir in our first county game, it became pretty obvious that something had to change," said Linsenmeyer. "We sat down as a team, as captains, and it was just kind of decided that I was going to start playing up top — a withdrawn striker I guess you could call it. For me, that was a huge change … going from being behind the play all the time to now playing with my back to goal.
"At the time, I wasn't sure about it. But now, looking back, that was definitely the role I needed to play on this team."
Following the position switch for its senior captain, Mt. Hebron rolled off 14 consecutive victories on its way to exercising its region-playoff demons and advancing to the 3A state championship game. The journey fell one win short of the ultimate goal, losing 1-0 against Urbana in the title match-up, but Linsenmeyer and the Vikings cemented their place in history along the way.
For his efforts as a leader both on and off the field, doing all the little things that helped Mt. Hebron rise to the top, Linsenmeyer has been named Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Player of the Year for a second straight season.
"He did a lot of things for us this year, cleaned up a lot of messes and was willing to go outside his comfort zone in order to help the team," said Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer. "What it came down to was that we needed someone up top that could make good, quick decisions as we got the ball forward and he was the guy. I thought it was a role that he really grew in to."
Johnny Linsenmeyer had been flanked last fall by a pair of first-team all-county players in Atticus Cooke and Pat Palin. With those two having graduated, the challenge was finding a different group of wingmen.
As the season unfolded, once Linsenmeyer found his new home, all the pieces around him fell into place. Mike Yacynych took on an expanded role in the midfield, while Trevor Namie and Jared Simowitz became dangerous in the attacking third. The Mt. Hebron offense finished the season with 42 goals, ranking as the second-highest producing offense in the county.
"It was interesting because I don't think I ever worried about replacing Atticus and Pat, and that's not to say they weren't amazing players. But I just had so much confidence in the guys coming back," Johnny Linsenmeyer said. "We had the talent, we just had to figure out how to best use it. As the year went on, I think we were actually an even closer group than my junior year. We just had such great chemistry."
There were certainly stumbling blocks along the way, both on and off the field, that had to be overcome. After opening with a couple non-county victories over Catonsville and Oakdale, the Vikings lost to Reservoir, 2-1.
Then, as if the setback on the field wasn't enough, Mike Linsenmeyer and his youngest son were involved in an accident where they were hit by a car while riding a bicycle. When the team lined up for its game on Sept. 15 against River Hill — a program Mt. Hebron hadn't defeated since 2009 — Mike was in the hospital instead of coaching on the sidelines.
But, even with all the distractions, Johnny came out and delivered the lone goal in a 1-0 victory that changed the momentum of the team's season.
"Of all the things, I was probably the most proud of the way he handled himself after Matt and I were hit by the car. To compose himself, with all that going on, and to play like he did against River Hill was just unbelievable," Mike Linsenmeyer said. "That whole thing just showed so much maturity. It was pretty awesome."
Mt. Hebron steadily built itself into a powerful machine, scoring multiple goals in the team's final nine county games and winning seven of those contests by at least two.
The Vikings locked up their second straight county championship with a win over Wilde Lake during the last week of the regular season.
Johnny Linsenmeyer says that clinching game against the Wildecats, during which midfielder Sebastian Tobar was taken away in an ambulance after sustaining a head injury, was a defining moment in the season.
"Obviously we had bigger goals this season, but that county championship still meant a lot. That win over Wilde Lake was an emotional one I think in a lot of ways," he said. "It was almost like we took a moment to hit the pause button and really enjoy that one in the middle of what felt like a tornado of a season."
The playoffs then turned out to be all about redemption for Linsenmeyer and the Vikings. After losing in penalty kicks in the region playoffs each of the previous three years, Mt. Hebron took care of each of its region opponents during regulation this time around. Along the way, Mt. Hebron defeated Centennial — the team that knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs in 2015 — and Linsenmeyer converted what ended up being the game-winning penalty kick in that contest.
"Those two Centennial playoff games the last two years were just unreal," Johnny Linsenmeyer said. "Last year in the fog, going back and forth before losing in penalties. Then this year, being able to finally get rid of those demons both for me personally and for the team. Finally making a penalty kick in the playoffs, after missing the past two years, was a big moment for me."
After moving on to defeat Chesapeake for the region championship, Mt. Hebron kept the ball rolling with a shutout victory against Towson in the 3A state semifinals. The run ended against Urbana in the title game, but Linsenmeyer said just getting to play on the state's biggest stage was something he will never forget.
Linsenmeyer says that game at Loyola University may actually end up being his last game of his official soccer career. His current plans don't include playing collegiate soccer, instead choosing to focus on academics.
He says if this past fall was his last on a soccer field, it was exactly how he would want to go out.
"It may sound lame, but I'm pretty content with where I am with soccer … with the things I was able to accomplish with my teammates this year and each of the last four years. I got to accomplish most of my goals," he said. "So now I guess I'm just ready to open a new chapter of my life beyond sports."
Named to the all-county first team are:
Ramzy Ahmed, Glenelg, senior.
A second-team performer last year as a junior, Ahmed was even more dynamic this fall as the unquestioned leader of the Gladiators' offense. He doubled his goal production — from six in 2015 to 13 this year — to go along with a pair of assists.
"Ramzy put in a great deal of work in the offseason to make sure that he was prepared for his senior year. He helped bring a mentality to compete every day," Glenelg coach Joseph Osborne said. "He was a constant threat in the attacking third and always seemed ready to break through with a goal. He had over half of our team's goals in the regular season."
Ahmed had plenty of highlights, but his five-goal effort in a victory over Reservoir is certainly at the top of the list.
Anderson Mejia-Marroquin, Hammond, junior.
The Golden Bears were much improved this year and having a weapon up top like Mejia-Marroquin was a major reason why. He finished with 12 goals this fall, which amazingly was more than Hammond scored as a team the entire 2015 season.
"Anderson combines great speed with dangerous individual ability to create havoc for opposing defenses," Hammond coach Brett Cutler said. "He has been the leading goal scorer for this team every year he has been in high school."
While he was a weapon all season, Mejia-Marroquin was particularly dynamic early in the year. He scored four goals in a non-county win over Edgewood, three times in a win over Marriotts Ridge, and twice in a victory over Atholton.
Ammar Narmouq, Centennial, senior.
An all-county player as a junior, there were high expectations for Narmouq coming into this fall. He lived up to all of them, establishing himself as the most dangerous offensive player in the county right from the get go.
He scored two goals in the Eagles' season-opening win over South Carroll and never slowed down, finishing with a league-best 19 goals and six assists.
"Ammar is very passionate about the game of soccer, working very hard and never complaining," Centennial coach Mario Moonasingh said. "He's the kid that was always at practice earlier than the other players working on shooting and his first touch."
Narmouq was particularly big late in the season, scoring twice in the team's playoff-opening win over Reservoir and then also converting the first goal in a second-round victory over River Hill.
Aidan Wisely, Glenelg Country, senior.
On its way to making the MIAA C Conference championship game for the second straight season, the Dragons boasted one of the league's most powerful offenses. Wisely, who finished with 16 goals and six assists, was the focal point of that attack.
"Aidan has the unique ability to receive the ball, turn and face the opponent, and take them one-versus-one … many times one-versus-three," Glenelg Country coach Ryan Hellem said. "Beyond his soccer skills, he is humble, selfless and is always there to support his teammates."
Wisely scored the team's lone goal in the C Conference title game and also registered a goal and two assists in the Dragons' huge regular-season victory over Concordia Prep. In two seasons with the program, Wisely finishes with a combined 43 goals and 16 assists.
Gianni Gupta, River Hill, senior.
A holdover piece from the Hawks' 2014 state-championship squad, Gupta provided a stabilizing force in the middle of the field this fall for a River Hill team that was incredibly young. The three-year varsity starter was asked to wear a number of different hats, but he consistently excelled no matter what his role was.
"He was a player that was moved into multiple positions this past fall, finally ending up in the holding midfield spot. He still led the team in goals," River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said.
Gupta finished with eight goals and three assists, playing his best soccer during River Hill's 10-game unbeaten streak during the second half of the year. During one three-game stretch against Reservoir, Atholton and Howard, he scored five of the team's eight goals.
Nick Haskins, Centennial, junior.
The Eagles' junior got off to a relatively slow start, but picked up steam as the season went on and established himself as one of the most dangerous players in the county. He finished the year with four goals and seven assists for a Centennial offense that scored a county-best 49 times.
"A lot of players would have dropped their heads after not seeing his hard work paying off, but not Nick. He stayed after practice and worked and worked," Centennial coach Mario Moonasingh said. "Nick ended up being a reliable winger and one of our best playmakers."
Haskins scored the team's lone goal against county-champion Mt. Hebron during the regular season and the team's first goal in its playoff victory over Reservoir. With several seniors graduating, he will likely be the Eagles' go-to-player on offense next year.
Anthony Perez, Hammond, senior.
The Golden Bears' midfielder was arguably the county's top newcomer this fall, stepping right in as a player that was a threat to create scoring opportunities every time he touched the ball. He was particularly dangerous on free kicks, as he could put the ball on frame from literally anywhere in the offensive half of the field.
"He provided the consistent midfield play that drove our attack," Hammond coach Brett Cutler said. "He was lethal on free kicks from any distance … one of the best dead ball strikers I have ever seen."
Perez had lots of big games, but none was bigger than his two-goal and two-assist performance in the team's 4-3 victory over Centennial. He also scored twice against county-champion Mt. Hebron and had a pair of assists in a win over Marriotts Ridge.
William Schulden, Reservoir, senior.
A three-year varsity player, Schulden was the engine in the middle of the field for the Gators. He excelled at winning balls, maintaining possession and then pushing forward to spark the team's offense.
"He paired skill and speed to lead the team," Reservoir coach Jason Hall said. "He was a team captain and was essential in attack."
Schulden finished as the team leader in points (19) on the strength of five goals and nine assists. Early in September, in the Gators' first county game, Schulden scored both of the team's goals in a 2-1 victory over eventual county-champion Mt. Hebron.
Mike Yacynych, Mt. Hebron, senior.
A consistent contributor as a junior, Yacynych was asked to step up and take on more of a starring leadership role this fall and he delivered. He and player of the year Johnny Linsenmeyer combined to create a dynamic duo for a Vikings' team that went on to win county and region titles.
"You could see the confidence he had from the very beginning, and I think a lot of it was knowing that it was his time to shine. We needed someone to step into the hole left by Pat [Palin] and Atticus [Cooke] and Mike provided that for us," Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. "He and Johnny are great friends, they play so well off one another, and Mike seemed to always be in the right spot this year for us out wide. His play was a big reason for our success."
Yacynych had big moments all season, but was particularly crucial to the Vikings getting started on the right foot. He scored goals in each of the team's season-opening non-county victories over Catonsville and Oakdale, then provided the assist in the team's first county win over River Hill.
Matt Blum, Howard, senior.
The Lions enjoyed one of the program's most successful seasons in county play, finishing with a league record of 7-3-1, and the team's defense anchored by Blum was a major reason why. He was versatile in the sense that he was capable of defending in a number of different ways, was the team's main penalty-kick taker and also excelled taking throw-ins and corner kicks.
"Matt was a great leader for us this year. He secured our back line and was a great communicator with our entire team," Howard coach Nils Schroder said. "He was as hard of a worker as I have ever had on and off the field."
Howard's defense secured five shutouts on the season and allowed more than one goal against only five times.
James Carter, River Hill, senior.
Despite a freshman starting in goal, River Hill still finished the season as one of the county's top defensive teams — allowing just 17 goals against. Carter was a major reason why, helping clean things up in the back and showcasing the ability to excel both in the air and in the run of play.
"James was a vital part of our back line. He is a 6-foot-3, left-footed center back who grew tremendously as a player over the past year," River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said.
Carter and the Hawks' defense recorded five shutouts and played a major role in the team closing the regular season with seven straight victories.
Darbouzeson Casseus, Oakland Mills, sophomore.
The sophomore defender burst onto the scene this fall as an impact player on both ends of the field. After playing goalie for the Scorpions' JV squad as a freshman, he moved out of the net and demonstrated his skills as one of the best long-throw weapons in the county.
"He changes the game. You can't pin us in on our defensive end because he could get us 50 yards back up the field again and then obviously he was someone teams had to modify their game plan for on the offensive end," Oakland Mills coach Don Shea said. "He's extremely athletic, he has the size, and in our system he fits in perfectly."
Casseus finished with a county-best 14 assists, the majority coming on set pieces. He had multiple assists in wins over Marriotts Ridge, Long Reach and Hammond during the regular season.
Kevin Comeaux, Wilde Lake, senior.
Few players in the county were as versatile as Comeaux was this fall for a Wildecats' team that got off to an incredibly hot start. The senior saw time in almost every area of the field, making an impact every step of the way.
"Kevin takes charge of any situation he is put in with a confident approach and positive attitude," Wilde Lake coach Trevor Shea said. "He has been a great asset this season, adding senior leadership to go with a strong defensive presence in the back while playing sweeper, keeper and even moving into the midfield when needed."
Comeaux spent the majority of his time as a defensive player, controlling things in the air and also serving as a long-throw specialist for the team. Late in the season, he even stepped in at goalie for a couple games. And, when the situation called for it, he was adept at pushing up to help out the offense.
He finished the season with four goals and four assists, including what ended up being the game-winning goal in a win over Reservoir.
Guy Mobeka, Glenelg, senior.
There were a lot of moving pieces in the back for the Gladiators coming into the season, but Mobeka ended up being the anchor the team needed to succeed.
"With having a new goalie and some injuries early on, he was critical in shaping the defense early in the year," coach Joseph Osborne said. "He was a phenomenal player for us on set pieces, going and getting a head on the ball. And as one of the vocal leaders on the team, he led not only by example, but also through what he said."
Mobeka was hampered by an injury for much of this fall but that didn't keep him from making an impact. On its way to a winning record, Glenelg's defense posted two shutouts and had six games allowing one goal or less.
Torey Jones, Mt. Hebron, senior.
After splitting time in goal for the Vikings the past couple seasons, Jones was the unquestioned starter from day one this fall. He used his athleticism, instincts and quick reflexes to help anchor what ended up being the county's stingiest defense.
"More than anything, Torey just dedicated himself in the offseason. He came in fit, ready to go and took control of everything in the back," Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. "This year he was great on balls in the air, and he has always naturally excelled at knowing how to put himself in the right spots. Put those two things together and he made some incredible saves."
Jones had lots of big performances, as he allowed only two opponents to score more than one goal on him in a single game. He posted six shutouts, including against Towson in the state semifinals, and his save percentage (86.4) was the best in the county.
All-County Boys Soccer
Player of the Year
|Johnny Linsenmeyer||Mt. Hebron||senior||forward|
|Aidan Wisely||Glenelg Country||senior||forward|
|Gianni Gupta||River Hill||senior||midfield|
|Mike Yacynych||Mt. Hebron||senior||midfield|
|James Carter||River Hill||senior||defense|
|Darbouzeson Casseus||Oakland Mills||sophomore||defense|
|Kevin Comeaux||Wilde Lake||senior||defense|
|Torey Jones||Mt. Hebron||senior||goalie|
|Trevor Namie||Mt. Hebron||junior||forward|
|Nick David||Wilde Lake||senior||midfield|
|Jonathan Fawole||Long Reach||junior||midfield|
|Justin Harris||River Hill||sophomore||midfield|
|Sam Onumah||Oakland Mills||senior||midfield|
|Camden Fisher||Glenelg Country||senior||defense|
|Aditya Gupta||Marriotts Ridge||senior||defense|
|Max Mzhen||River Hill||senior||defense|
|Jacob Parrott||Mt. Hebron||senior||defense|
|Alex Simak||Mt. Hebron||senior||defense|
MIAA C All-Conference
|Aidan Wisely||Glenelg Country||senior||forward|
|Nicolas Clemons||Glenelg Country||senior||midfield|
|Trevor Ryerson||Glenelg Country||senior||midfield|
|Riley Schmidt||Glenelg Country||senior||defense|
|Camden Fisher||Glenelg Country||senior||defense|
Fan's Choice Player of the Year
Boys Soccer 2016 Final Standings
Howard County Times: Top stories
* County champion, 3A state finalist
** MIAA C Conference finalist
# Plays in MIAA C Conference
Boys Soccer Final Statistics*
|Ammar Narmouq, C||19||6||44|
|Aidan Wisely, GCS||16||6||38|
|Johnny Linsenmeyer, MH||13||8||34|
|Ramzy Ahmed, G||13||2||28|
|Anderson Mejia-Marroquin, Ha||12||3||27|
|Anthony Perez, Ha||9||6||24|
|Nicolas Clemons, GCS||10||2||22|
|Trevor Namie, MH||9||4||22|
|Gianni Gupta, RH||8||3||22|
|Noah Taylor, C||7||6||20|
|William Schulden, Re||5||9||19|
|Darbouzeson Casseus, OM||1||14||16|
|Michael Yacynych, MH||7||2||16|
|Mark Bruner, Ho||7||1||15|
|Nick David, WL||6||3||15|
|Josh Ditman, RH||7||1||15|
|Nick Haskins, C||4||7||15|
|Vladimir Bruno, OM||6||2||14|
|Mark Lee, MR||7||0||14|
|Sahil Raina, MR||7||0||14|
|Debruyn Cedeno, Re||6||1||13|
|Alex Keppler, C||5||3||13|
|Sam Onumah, OM||4||5||13|
|Kevin Comeaux, WL||4||4||12|
|Caine Mckinney, Ho||3||6||12|
|Vincent Broccolino, MH||4||3||11|
|Danny Fuentes, RH||3||5||11|
|Denzel Pinyen, WL||4||3||11|
|Alex Simak, MH||1||9||11|
|Justin Harris, RH||2||6||10|
|Monssef Marrakchi, Ho||4||2||10|
|Charlie Mavronis, G||4||2||10|
|Matt Merkey, C||4||2||10|
|Chase Crable, MR||1||7||9|
|Gullit Kingson, OM||4||1||9|
|Jared Simowitz, MH||2||5||9|
|Zach Coyle, Ho||3||2||8|
|Sebastian Tobar, MH||2||4||8|
|Jordan Anderson, G||2||3||7|
|Matt Blum, Ho||3||1||7|
|Justin Breedlove, C||1||5||7|
|Michael Farace, G||3||1||7|
|Jacob Parrott, MH||2||3||7|
|Trevor Ryerson, GCS||1||5||7|
|Kofi Bonsu, WL||2||2||6|
|James Carter, RH||3||0||6|
|Karim Hassan, A||2||2||6|
|Tejas Khanna, A||3||0||6|
|Shalin Mahedevia, A||3||0||6|
|Greg Obeng, WL||2||2||6|
|Martin Wang, G||2||2||6|
|Player, school||Saves||GA||Save Pct.|
|Torey Jones, MH||95||15||86.4|
|Rohit Vepa, C||86||17||83.5|
|Brendan Hartlove, Ho||81||17||82.7|
|Patrick Sherlock, RH||52||15||77.6|
|Nick Lara, A||89||26||77.4|
|Yaw Owusu-Boaitey, MR||105||36||74.5|
|Toby Baldwin, OM||54||19||74.0|
*All statistics not received from all schools