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Final season for Central's four-sport athlete

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Central York football coach Josh Oswalt left meetings taken aback by the approach of senior Carter Luckenbaugh.

Luckenbaugh played soccer and kicked for his football team this fall, so in order to make it work for both programs Oswalt sat down with the senior to plot out the practices Luckenbaugh could attend.

Nothing was left to the last minute; Luckenbaugh always had a plan.

"He's mature beyond his years," Oswalt said.

Despite being a star for the soccer team and a special teams contributor in football, it took no egging on from football coaches to see Luckenbaugh's true strength.

"He's a natural-born leader," Oswalt said. "He usually came to 1 1/2 practices a week, and when he was there everybody would listen to him. He was definitely somebody who could come in and take charge."

Luckenbaugh earned all-state recognition as a second-team punter.

In soccer, all Luckenbaugh did was flip the script on the Panthers' entire season and earn all-state honors from the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association.

"He did whatever was needed for us to be successful," Central York coach Frank Lenno said. "We had him play a holding midfielder position and get him to distribute, then we came into a situation where we needed him to score more goals and take charge midway through the season."

Luckenbaugh responded with goal after goal.

"He is an unbelievable leader," Lenno said. "He gets people to rally around him and he's very, very positive with younger players."

During the winter, he played basketball, taking on the role of defensive specialist. Laughing, Luckenbaugh added: "I'm not really a basketball player."

But now he's back to playing a pivotal role for the state-ranked volleyball team.

"He never really gets rattled," senior volleyball player Benjamin Seebold said.

Luckenbaugh has been the rare all-weather athlete, playing at least one sport in each of the seasons. He played in the YAIAA soccer championship. He played in the YAIAA basketball championship. He played in a District 3 playoff football game. And if Central volleyball continues to improve, the team is ranked fourth in this week's state rankings, he could be playing in the boys' volleyball state tournament.

"He's always going everywhere," junior Cole Johnson said. "I will watch him, and he gets me pumped up to hustle like he does."

Luckenbaugh signals to his teammates before every serve, and in a typical game he makes numerous diving attempts to keep the ball alive.

This four-sport sprint to the finish of his high school career, however, could have easily never happened. Luckenbaugh didn't play a varsity sport his freshman year, opting to play club soccer with Pennsylvania Classics under Mark Pulisic, a former Harrisburg Heat player and onetime head coach for the Lebanon Valley College men's and women's soccer programs. Pulisic's son Christian now plays for the United States men's national team.

But following a specialized path in high school was not what Luckenbaugh wanted.

"I wanted to have fun in high school," Luckenbaugh said. "Obviously I couldn't be playing all these sports if I was playing club soccer. Honestly, I don't know (why I left club soccer), other than I just love playing all theses sports. It kept me in shape, and it kept me out of trouble."

Central volleyball appears on a collision course with Northeastern for the YAIAA title, with the two scheduled to meet at Central York on May 11. Still, Luckenbaugh doesn't want to talk about that match. Not now. It's next point. Next game. Concentrate on the present. That attitude, and ice baths to save his legs, are how he's navigated his senior season.

But after his final high school season, the four-sport athlete will turn all his attention one sport.

"I talked to a couple (college) football coaches, I probably could have played volleyball as well, but I'm most experienced at soccer," Luckenbaugh said. "What it came down to is I just wanted to pick the sport where I would have the most fun. That's where I want to dedicate the next four years of my life."

Luckenbaugh committed to play soccer at Division II Bloomsburg University, which is coming off a 3-12-3 season.

"Bloomsburg has a lot of room to grow, and they're getting the right kind of kid to help them do that," Lenno said.