Experience a key for Howards Grove

WILLIAM RAUTMANN WILLIAM RAUTMANN Eight starters return for the Howards Grove boys soccer team, including five who made all-Big East Conference.

“That’s pretty special, that’s pretty nice to have,” Tigers’ coach Bob Peterson said.

Howards Grove features six seniors, highlighted by fourth-year starter William Rautmann.

“He’s pretty fun to watch,” Peterson said. “He’s pretty dynamic, has great skills, is quick, and is a student of the game who’s been playing his whole life.”

Howards Grove opened practice Monday, scrimmages at Plymouth on Saturday and competes in the season opening Sheboygan South Tournament on Aug. 25.

Rautmann, who is receiving some interest from colleges, made first-team all-conference after leading the squad with 63 points and 26 goals last year. He is great with the ball, possesses good dribbling skills and can score from many positions on the field.

“He can separate from defenders,” Peterson said. “He covers really well, has good field position, gets his space quick and he’s usually marked every game. Somebody’s marking him pretty hard and he’s able to still get open and make plays on the ball or find teammates. He has a good knack of finding the back of the net.”

Three defenders return who made all-conference, led by senior Jack Baldwin, who made the second team. Senior Blake Pedrin and sophomore Ryan Baldwin received honorable mention.

Junior Rozz Yost, who was third on the team with 19 points last year, also earned honorable mention as an outside midfielder.

“The only thing that’s really a question mark for us is we lost our keeper,” Peterson said. “That’s a hole that we’re still trying to figure out. I’ve got two potential candidates there and both are sophomores. But there’s a pretty good line of defense in front of them, so they should be protected quite a bit.”

Goalie Austin Bender not only made first-team all-conference, but Peter Grimm also graduated after getting a spot on the first team. He was the second-leading scorer with 54 points.

Howards Grove finished 13-6-3 last season and took third place in the Big East with a 9-2 mark. Kohler was 11-0.

The Tigers lost both league games to the Blue Bombers by a total score of 10-2. The second was a 5-0 decision on Sept. 21, but Howards Grove won six of its next seven games to reach a regional final.

“I think toward the end of the season we had a higher intensity and wanted to win more,” Rautmann said. “We just came out and played better.”

Kohler eliminated Howards Grove in the playoffs, but this time the score was only 1-0.

“It was pretty disappointing, but we played probably our best game of the whole season,” Rautmann said. “So there’s going to be lots to look forward to considering how well we played against them. I’m excited, I’m pumped to get going.”

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