Two years ago, Caton Johnson was the Manheim Township senior goalkeeper helping the Blue Streaks capture a state championship, the first of any kind for a District Three boys lacrosse program.
It put a bow on a stellar prep career as he then turned his attention to the University of North Carolina, where he’s been verbally committed since he was a freshman in high school. Considered among the best high school goalkeepers in the Class of 2018, Johnson lived up to the hype as a freshman with the Tar Heels in 2019 by earning Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honors, highlighted by setting a program single-game record by a true freshman goalie with a 21-save performance in a win over Duke.
Coming into the 2020 campaign, Inside Lacrosse named Johnson a preseason All-American. And Johnson had started all seven games for the fourth-ranked Tar Heels (7-0) before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
LNP|LancasterOnline recently caught up with Johnson, who is currently back home in Lancaster with his parents and four siblings. Here is that Q&A…
What have the last few weeks been like now that you’re back home? “They’ve been all right. Keeping myself busy with school and working out, having full days or trying to have them.”
What’s it like like with your four siblings again? “It’s actually been going smoother than you would expect it to. My two older sisters are working. My two younger siblings have schoolwork so they’re occupied during the day. By end of the day we’ve been having a lot of family time.”
How have you been able to stay in shape? “I’ve been doing a lot of footwork just to try to keep my quickness. Jump rope other things like battle ropes, going on jogs, I have a set of dumbbells.”
What’s an area of improvement that you had worked on over the offseason coming into the 2020 campaign? “Everything other than stopping the ball that I needed to work on, which means during the game, as it gets more difficult, my communication and knowing the defense, stick work, footwork, speed work.”
What kind of pressure comes with coming into this year as preseason all-american? “As much as I appreciate those honors, I don’t think preseason honors mean as much as who has the championship at the end of the year. That’s what I’m focused on.”
As the returning goalkeeper, you entered this season with three new starting defenders in front of you. How much of an adjustment period was that? “One of the things coach (Joe) Breschi and I talk about is being more of an emotional leader as much of a schematic leader. (Defenders) Will Bowen and Connor Maher are good at being vocal and running the defense. I’m back there trying to fire kids up and trying to make the big save.”
How tough has it been to swallow having the season end so early? “Really tough to swallow. We had worked so hard. ...the feeling in that locker room was different than what I felt before. We grinded all fall all, things were starting to click. We got a couple big wins. We had a couple big games coming up. It definitely felt crushing, but you gotta take what you’re handed.”
Where did you see this team potentially finishing up this season? “The end goal is always to win a championship. ACC championship first and then a national championship. I thought that was an achievable goal, now that that’s gone.”
So what are you planning to work on over the offseason? “Honestly after every season I usually take a couple weeks or close to a month without shots just because you get beaten on for months at practice. I’ve done that for a couple years. So I’m in that phase now just working on footwork and hand-eye coordination.”