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Elijah Linscott led the North Hardin Trojans to new heights this season and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
The North Hardin senior center midfielder was voted Offensive Player of the Year on the annual The News-Enter-prise/Coaches’ All-Area Boys’ Soccer Team after he helped the Trojans (19-7) sweep the 17th District and 5th Region Tournament titles and earn a berth in the KHSAA State Tournament quarterfinals.
“I’m mainly honored, but there’s a little bit of shock in there,” said Linscott, who also earned state coaches’ association first team All-State honors earlier this month.
Linscott appeared on four of a possible six ballots and received three first-place votes to finish with 18 out of a maximum 30 points. He edged LaRue County senior striker Alex Cook (17 points, two first-place votes) and John Hardin senior midfielder Alex Higdon (15, two).
Linscott finished with team highs in goals (23) and assists (17). Cook had an area-record 56 goals and 13 assists in 19 games for the Hawks (15-6), while Higdon had 13 goals and eight assists for the Bulldogs (12-6-3).
“It feels great and like I said, this is a big honor,” said Linscott, who is believed to be the first North Hardin player of either gender to finish with at least 40 career goals and 40 career assists. “My main thing I was looking out for this year was that I had such an outstanding year last season, I wanted to do better than I did last year. That was my main goal and at the beginning of the year, I told Coach (Jim Stone) my goal was to get us to State and then win Player of the Year.”
Check and check.
After scoring 11 goals and recording 18 assists in 25 games as a junior as the Trojans went 16-6 and were upset by Meade County in the district semifinals, Linscott achieved both goals this season.
Sophomore of the Year Zach Fonda of Central Hardin said Linscott was a match-up problem size-wise and skill-wise for his younger, smaller Bruins.
“He’s a lot bigger than us and he can push off the ball more,” said the center midfielder. “But he’s a great player, too, and he deserves the award.”
Another award winner, Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Malcolm of North Hardin, said his teammate was deserving, too.
“Pretty much everything went to him and he would distribute the ball to our forwards,” said the senior goalkeeper. “He can find the littlest gaps and still get the ball to our forwards to give us the goals we needed.”
Linscott, a three-time All-Area first team honoree, is the second Trojan in four years to win the award. He joined striker Tyler Blankenship (2009).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. A second-team All-State honoree, Malcolm was always in the middle of the goal – which seemed to always create concerns for opposing offenses.
Malcolm kept eight of his last nine regular-season opponents from scoring multiple goals.
“I was working well in the net, but the defense in front of me held hard,” Malcolm said. “They weren’t letting shots come through.”
He shut out district and region runner-up Central Hardin in all three of the teams’ meetings.
“He’s a great goalie and he made some really good saves against us,” Fonda said. “We just know how he’s going to come out and get the ball against us. He can jump really far and he gets the ball most of the time.”
Malcolm appeared on 5-of-6 ballots and received four first-place votes to finish with 23 points. He edged out Meade County senior central defender Dylan Andrews (22 points, three first-place votes). John Hardin senior center defender Matt Lewis was third with nine points. Andrews helped the Green Wave (11-5-5) hold opponents to fewer than 1.2 goals per game, while Lewis helped the Bulldogs hold foes to fewer than 1.4 goals per match.
“I really didn’t think about the award,” Malcolm said. “I just wanted to be good at what I do and help our team to get where we did.”
Malcolm went 6-1 after returning from a six-game suspension. In that span, the Trojans outscored their opposition, 27-5.
“Every day in practice, that’s all he talked about was when he comes back, he was going to prove he should have never left,” Linscott said. “Even though he was still a great goalie, he told us you better watch out – and he showed us.”
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR. After seeing significant time as a freshman, Fonda was quite relaxed as a sophomore.
“I started a few games and played a lot, so coming in as a sophomore, I knew how we were supposed to play,” said Fonda, who was a leader for a young team which didn’t start a senior in the majority of its games.
Fonda accepted the challenge, scoring a team-high 10 goals and matching junior Ryan Keeney with a team-best six assists.
He was a clear-cut choice, appearing on all six ballots. His five first-place votes and 26 points were best in the four All-Area individual award categories.
“I didn’t even know about it until Coach (Mike Wiersema) called me down to the office,” Fonda said. “I thought I was in trouble or something. But then he told me and I was pretty proud.”
Despite his opponent’s smaller size, Linscott said Fonda still finds ways to cause opposing defenses trouble.
“You have to know where he’s at on the field at all times and when he gets the ball, you’ve got to put pressure on him,” Linscott said. “As small as he is and as young as he is, it’s scary to think that he’s only a sophomore. I mean, the kid’s really good.
“He’s small in size, but he’s big in heart,” Linscott said. “You can see the fight in his eyes. And just watching that (district tournament) game against John Hardin when he took the ball from one end line to the other, it shocks you to realize he’s still just a sophomore.”
Meade County midfielder Ashton Lancaster was the runner-up with 11 points and two first-place votes, while Fort Knox striker Cody Lewis was third with nine points.
Fonda is the third Central Hardin player in four years to win the award, joining midfielders Jordan Mabe (2011) and Noah Wiersema (2009). Fonda said part of the reason the Bruins have had such success producing young stars is that Mike Wiersema is unafraid to put younger players on the field to allow them to be challenged and grow.
“Coach Wiersema plays whoever he thinks is right for the spot and he doesn’t care what grade you’re in,” Fonda said. “If he thinks you’re right for it, he’ll let you play.”
COACH OF THE YEAR. Stone put the pressure on North Hardin before the season ever began, saying this was the Trojans’ year.
“It was a little bit of pressure on us, but it was mainly confidence because of the way he put it out there,” Linscott said. “He told us our goal was to get to State. He told us we had the talent, the skill level and the team chemistry to get there, so we just needed to put it all together.”
Led by their veteran coach, the Trojans did put it all together, going 7-0 against district teams and winning 10-of-11 games against region foes. After a four-game losing streak in which the Trojans were outscored 13-2, Stone made some changes and his team responded by winning 17-of-19.
“He was never negative to us and never discouraged us,” Linscott said. “Even after the Male game (a 7-2 loss), he didn’t put us down or punish us. He just told us what we did wrong and if we didn’t work on it, then we were going to go downhill. But he told us there’s always a way to climb up.”
Stone appeared on 5-of-6 ballots, finishing with 19 points and three first-place votes. Wiersema was the runner-up with 14 points and two first-place votes, while Meade County’s Matt Pollock was third with 12 points and one first-place vote. LaRue County’s Chuck Holloway received the other first-place vote.
ALL-AREA TEAM. Earning first team honors were Higdon, Linscott, Cook, Fonda, Malcolm, Andrews, Central Hardin junior Ryan Kenney, John Hardin junior forward Jeremy Garcia, Meade County senior midfielder Chase Long, Meade County senior striker Brent Raley and North Hardin senior midfielder/striker Devin Sowells.
Voted to the second team were Fort Knox senior midfielder Spencer Moore, Elizabethtown junior midfielder/striker Travis Richardson, Meade County senior keeper Alex Fackler, North Hardin senior wing Steve Packer, Elizabethtown junior midfielder Conner Kauffeld, LaRue County senior midfielder Rico Collado, Matt Lewis, Central Hardin junior striker/midfielder Austin Howard, Meade County senior midfielder Zach Ledford, Cody Lewis and John Hardin senior defender Brandon Shugan.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com
BOYS’ 2012 ALL-AREA SOCCER TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year
Elijah Linscott, North Hardin
Defensive Player of the Year
Tyler Malcolm, North Hardin
Sophomore of the Year
Zach Fonda, Central Hardin
Coach of the Year
Jim Stone, North Hardin
First Team All-Area
Alex Higdon, John Hardin
Elijah Linscott, North Hardin
Alex Cook, LaRue County
Zach Fonda, Central Hardin
Ryan Keeney, Central Hardin
Tyler Malcolm, North Hardin
Dylan Andrews, Meade County
Jeremy Garcia, John Hardin
Chase Long, Meade County
Brent Raley, Meade County
Devin Sowells, North Hardin
Second Team All-Area
Spencer Moore, Fort Knox
Travis Richardson, Elizabethtown
Alex Fackler, Meade County
Steve Packer, North Hardin
Connor Kauffeld, Elizabethtown
Rico Collado, LaRue County
Matt Lewis, John Hardin
Austin Howard, Central Hardin
Zach Ledford, Meade County
Cody Lewis, Fort Knox
Brandon Shugan, John Hardin
Honorable Mention All-Area
Central Hardin: Garrett Kasey.
Elizabethtown: Cody Bridges and Nick Hartlage.
FortKnox: Jesus Fuentes.
John Hardin: Brandon Peck, Zack Shortt and John Westwood.
LaRueCounty: Holden Blair and Marshall Metcalf.
MeadeCounty: Cris DeJesus, Ashton Lancaster, Austin Lancaster, Justin Mosier and Jacob Waldecker.
North Hardin: Geoff Nelson and Taylor Yates.
The seven area head coaches were asked to nominate athletes for the individual awards and the All-Area Team. After all nominations were received, a ballot was emailed out to every coach. Voting was done on a 5-3-1 points scale for the four individual awards (Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sophomore of the Year and Coach of the Year), with five being a first-place vote, three being a second and one being a third. Voting was done on a 15-14-13-etc. scale for the All-Area Team. Players had to be nominated by their coach AND receive at least one vote from an opposing coach to earn honorable mention. Coaches were forbidden from voting for themselves or their athletes.