February 6, 2010

Nine Lancers ink letters of intent on Signing Day


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The Linganore Lancers are a proud program with a rich winning tradition. In 36 years, Linganore's football team has been to the playoffs 14 times. Five of those times they've won state championships, and on four other occasions they've been runner-up. Since 1990, Linganore has finished in the top 10 of the state rankings six times, including three top-5 finishes.

But of all the great teams in Linganore history, the 2009 version was the best. One year after losing in the state finals to Sherwood, the Lancers responded with their first undefeated season. Linganore, which defeated Huntingtown in the 3A state finals, ranked No. 1 in the polls for the first time in school history.

On top of that, they boasted an astounding 13 All-State performers and nine scholarship players (a number that's sure to grow).

Last Wednesday, those nine players signed their national letters of intent in front of family and friends in the Linganore gymnasium. Two of them - Robby Havenstein (Wisconsin) and Zach Zwinak (Penn State) -- signed with Division I schools. Three more - Kyle Tucker (Monmouth), Ryan Dixon (James Madison) and Michael Johnson (Bryant) - inked I-AA deals. And the remaining four - Ricky Conner (West Virginia Wesleyan), Kevin and Gary Saylor (Concord) and Kevin Myers (Charleston) - signed with Division II schools.

"These nine guys definitely deserved to be up there in front of everyone," Havenstein said. "This was a special class. These are some of the best football players I've been around. It's great."

Only DeMatha and Good Counsel had more players sign national letters of intent. Considering most public schools had one or maybe two scholarship players, the Lancers did indeed boast a rare and special class.

"This was a great group of kids who now have an amazing educational opportunity," said Linganore coach Rick Conner, who led the school to two of their five titles. "Looking at the two private schools … and to have nine signees here at Linganore - not bad for a public school."

Conner's players echoed his sentiments.

"Having this many guys up there meant a lot to us," said Myers, who decided on Charleston University just one day prior to Signing Day. "It's a credit to our hard work. We've been together for a long time and we all wanted this."

The nine signees sat in front while their parents and friends looked on from the bleachers. Conner, meanwhile, addressed the crowd from a podium. After a few introductory words, he called up each scholarship player to sign their letter of intent.

"It was a surreal experience for me," Havenstein said. "A couple years ago I was watching the Signing Day event on ESPN and I thought that was really cool. Now that I get to do that myself in front of all my family and friends is really amazing."

After signing their letters, each player was asked to address the crowd. All of them thanked their families, friends, coaches and teammates for supporting them.

"This really caps off my high school career," Johnson said. "It definitely ranks up there with top moments in my life. Signing with a college to play football and not having to pay for school - there's nothing better than that."

These nine won't be the last Linganore seniors to sign scholarships. Kicker Alex Eckard and defensive back Nick Marth both have scholarship offers but are waiting to commit. Tight end Andy Anderson, safety Austin Matthews and receiver Brandon Beiser also could land offers.

Fourteen scholarship players at a public school? It's unprecedented. And impressive.

"It just goes to show you the quality of player we had on our team," Conner said. "They did the job on the field and in the classroom. We're just real proud of them and their families."

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