Johnson brings optimism to Liberty 1993 Carroll County high school football preview

WINNING THEM OVER

September 02, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

The new guy in town has them buzzing.

His name is Ken Johnson and his game is winning high schoofootball games.

He won a state championship at Randallstown in 1984 and hathree straight winning years at Chesapeake in Baltimore County the past three seasons. In nine years at those two schools, Johnson had a 73-26 record.

No wonder people around Liberty High are getting excited ovescrimmages. The Lions have not exactly been a football power.

The word around Carroll County is that Liberty thrashed Moun ** Hebron in a scrimmage a couple of weeks ago.

That is heavy for victory-thirsty Liberty followers. They don't carif the game was played on a parking lot.

Johnson tried to downplay the scrimmage with the Vikings.

"I don't know how many times we scored," he said. "I just knothe scrimmage went real well. I was surprised at how physical we were. We kept our intensity level high."

Johnson is too smart to get carried away with one easscrimmage. He knows there is a tough road ahead of the Lions in the Central Maryland Conference.

Just thinking about the likes of Thomas Johnson, LinganoreFrederick, South Carroll and Westminster is enough to send the coach back into a shell even if he wanted to be optimistic.

"I have no barometer on the Central Maryland Conference," hsaid. "I don't know what to expect but I'm not completely naive. I know Thomas Johnson and Linganore are excellent high school football teams."

When it was mentioned that Liberty might not have the playerto compete with the Thomas Johnsons and Linganores, Johnson was more than ready with an answer and his beloved Delaware wing-T offense.

"This offense involves a lot of kids and enables them to havsuccess if they learn how to run it," he said. "It's a teaching progression and helps us with practice. All four backs are involved in either carrying or throwing the ball."

The element of surprise out of a well-executed play is whamakes this option offense go. Neither the backs nor the linemen has to be big.

The backs aren't running over people and the linemen aren'pushing defensive linemen out of the way.

"The linemen are using angles to block," said Johnson. "The keis not to have a lot of kids on the team but a lot of football players. You develop the kids you have."

It all sounds so good from the man who has been living iEldersburg the past six years but coaching at Randallstown and Chesapeake in Essex.

Johnson said he is having fun, the players are enjoyinthemselves and the parents are supportive.

But even Johnson has to wonder how long it will last.

"I hope we don't trip and fall," he said. "If we do, I hope we geback up."

He won't allow his players to look ahead to any game other thatomorrow night's opener against Glenelg at Liberty at 7:30, and he doesn't want any speculation on how many games the Lions might win after going 1-9 last year.

"In this country, we look at how many wins we have," he said. "But there are different levels of success. Records are deceiving. What you have to look at is how much success did you have with your talent base compared to that of your opponents."

Liberty is a 2A school and goes against 4A Frederick anWestminster and 3A Thomas Johnson, Linganore and South Carroll in the Central Maryland Conference.

Johnson is not conceding anything at the varsity level, but he he said his immediate goal is to establish success at the junior varsity level.

In his nine years as head coach after being an assistant aOwings Mills, Johnson has used the Delaware wing-T every year but one.

"I went to the run-and-shoot one year at Randallstown and wwent 7-3 with a team that shouldn't have lost a game," he said. "That was dumb coaching. It was back when the run-and-shoot was very popular. I shot myself in the foot."

There have been six trips to the playoffs in nine seasons, and thworst record for Johnson was 5-5 in 1985.

"Being around good administrators, good assistant coaches angood kids are a must," he said.

And just where does Johnson fit into the picture?

"I ask myself every day, 'What can I do to make us better?Whether it's a phone call to someone or anything else, I do it," he said.

Now Johnson, 40, is facing the ultimate test of his coachinphilosophy. He will be trying to bring football tradition to a small Carroll County school.

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