Linganore State FInal

Rick Conner

With his team set to play in a state semifinal on Friday, Linganore football coach Rick Conner is this week’s guest on the Final Score Podcast.

Conner chats with host Greg Swatek about what it’s like for his team to go on yet another deep postseason run. This marks the fourth straight season (not counting 2020, when no MPSSAA football teams played because of the coronavirus pandemic) that Linganore has reached the MPSSAA football final four.

The Lancers host Frederick at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Cadets are enjoying their most successful season in recent memory, and Conner talks about that team’s improvement. Other topics include benefits from the abbreviated spring season football teams had this year, Linganore running back Ethan Arneson’s emergence as a playmaker and whether Conner will ever be able to retire.

Prior to that conversation, FNP sports writer John Cannon chats with Swatek about the football playoffs as well as the last time Frederick County football teams met in a state semifinal in 1998.

The podcast is available at http://www.fnppodcasts.com and via iTunes, Google Play and other podcast apps.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation between Conner and Swatek (it has been edited for space):

Swatek: Are you going to be able to ever retire? Can you not coach football?

Conner: That is a tough question. My wife keeps wondering. And you know, it is funny because you know me probably better than a lot of people. I didn’t coach to win games. I love football. I love seeing the kids accomplish something maybe they didn’t think they could do, and it’s invigorating it to see them buy in, to see the changes, the growth, the progress they make in the weight room over a year.

Swatek: The wins are the cherry on top?

Conner: Exactly. And it wasn’t always like that. The early part of my career, losing kills me. And I just decided myself, I said, I can’t can’t do it like this because there are going to be games that you lose, and you’ve got to get over it and move on. So I focused on teams to be really well-coached. And that was my goal.

Swatek: I’m just trying to picture you sitting in the fall, sitting at your house right across the street from your high school.

Conner: Oh no, I’ll be over there watching games. I’ll walk over. And to be honest, my wife. she’s dying to go to a game and not have a dog in the fight.

Swatek: You’ll be coaching at 80 years old, though?

Conner: I’ve got a few years left.

Swatek: It’s impossible to picture you not coaching.

Conner: This year’s been, and really the last spring and the last couple of years, they’ve been as enjoyable as any year I’ve ever coached, and that’s 36 years.

Swatek: You guys have been in the state finals three straight years, fall seasons, going into this season. It’s not the winning, it’s the drive.

Conner: No, no, no, no, no. That’s just part of it. It’s like I said, I love being on that field. I love going out there. I like the weight room still. None of that’s boring to me yet.

Swatek: Right? You’ve said to me after games ... the outcome of the game, you’ve said to me, it doesn’t matter to [you]. I mean, you don’t like to lose, you enjoy all the wins, but it seems like you’re being genuine, like the scoreboard doesn’t matter.

Conner: Not in the least. It was my second year at TJ, it was 1993 or [1994], I don’t even know. We went 8-2, and for nine months, I was mad. And that’s when I decided, that that can’t happen, I can’t be that dependent on winning. And so we focused on being well-coached, trying to out-coach the other team, having special teams, defensive schemes, change it up week to week.

Swatek: How do you keep the job fun?

Conner: [See answer above]. And when you have 10 new defensive starters, it’s exciting again because you’re teaching again, it’s new to them. They expect you to do your job, bring your A game every practice. And kids want to be coached, they really do when you get down to it, so that’s what’s so much fun about it. And to see the progress they made from that one returning starter unit to who they are now today is really fun.

Swatek: Do people overreact to all this stuff. They see you guys in Week 1, and now it’s Week 12 or 13, and you’re not the same team?

Conner: People notice it. And it’s fun because you know because we’re playing Linganore football.

Swatek: Yes because they might see you early in the season, you guys struggle to pull out a win. They’re like, ‘Oh no, what’s wrong with Linganore football?’ But you’re like, nothing’s wrong, we just have to get better.

Conner: We’re going to be fine. We’re going to get better, you’re right. We were supposed to be down this year. That was the word out there. We only got one guy [back] on defense. The state leading rusher left, he graduated. How are you going to be good?

(1) comment

DickD

Linganore has a great record and there coaches have done a great job. So, they have been successful. Tonight should be a great game, win or lose. In spite of the great coaching at Linganore, I am betting the winner will be Frederick. They too have done a great coaching job and have some great players. They may have lost early in the season to Linganore, but tonight it the TOMORROW.

Good luck to all!

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