Howards Grove looking to return to playoffs again

by Dave Boehler
Review Sports Editor

JED GOEDEKE JED GOEDEKE It was only a two-year absence, but it was important for the Howards Grove football program to get back to the playoffs last season.

The Tigers lost to Valders, 41-14, in the first round of the Division 5 playoffs, but they managed to finish 8-2 and took second place in the Big East with a 7-1 mark.

“We had gone through a couple of years where the number of seniors I had was just so low, and to have 12 seniors last year that were contributors to the team is just something I don’t know that I’ve had ever, or at least for 10 or 15 years since I’ve started,” said Howards Grove coach Dave Schmid, who enters his 17th season. “So that to me is the biggest thing, sheer numbers at Division 5 schools. The fact that last year’s seniors bought into what we were trying to do and the changes we were trying to make after some unsuccessful seasons is really what turned the program around for us.”

Five starters return on each side of the ball for the Tigers, who open the season at 7 p.m. Friday against visiting Manitowoc Lutheran.

Senior Jed Goedeke is back after making all-conference second team as a defensive tackle and honorable mention as an offensive lineman.

“I look for big things from him returning on the defensive line,” Schmid said. “He is a great kid who has an absolute passion for football.”

Junior defensive back Kaeden Roethel had a team-high five interceptions a year ago to earn a spot on the all-league second team. His coach says he has a knack for the ball and is in the right place at the right time.

“He’s a very athletic kid and a smart football player,” Schmid said. “He takes coaching really well.”

Dalton Free, a senior inside linebacker who had a team-high 66 tackles last season, returns after making all-Big East honorable mention. This year, Schmid says he will also have a bigger role on offense.

“He was the leader of our defense last year as a junior and for sure is the leader of our defense this year,” Schmid said. “I look for big things out of him.”

Senior Gavin Winter also received honorable mention allconference. The wide receiver was first on the team with 21 receptions and was second with 382 yards receiving. His coach says he is very versatile who can also line up in the backfield.

“Throughout my years I have not been a throwing team because when you throw the ball, three things can happen, and two of them are bad,” Schmid said. “But over the years, I’ve realized you’re just not going to be able to run people over, you’re going to have some sort of passing game. To have a passing game, you have to have kids confident catching the ball. He just has that mindset that when the ball is in the air, he’s coming down with it regardless of how difficult of a catch it may be or how contested it might be by a defender. He’s coming down with it and the ball is his. That attitude is rare in my coaching experience.”

The offensive line features four returning players in Dylan Schukow, Matt Schorer, Jeremy Ramirez and Goedeke.

“We have knowledge from years past,” Goedeke said. “I think we’ll be good on the offensive line.”

Junior quarterback Luke Schroeder replaces Isaac Dirker, who made all-conference second team after ranking second in Big East with 1,044 passing yards in conference games.

Like Schroeder, junior Kaeden Roethel makes his varsity debut after starting two seasons in the junior varsity. Roethel replaces running back Jack Peterson, who led the Big East with 14 touchdowns in conference games and was second with 1,044 yards rushing for a spot on the all-league first team.

Other key players who graduated are Derek Stauss (first team defensive end and kicker), Kyle Wilkerson (first team offensive lineman), Mason Valenstein (second team wide receiver) Eric Reinemann (second team tight end/fullback and defensive back) and Trevor Nelson (honorable mention outside linebacker).

Schmid thinks his team can be as competitive as last year but the Tigers lack depth.

“If we can avoid the injury bug, I think we can be very close to what we had last year,” Schmid said. “A 7-2, 8-1 team, maybe host a first-round playoff game. But it’s a big if avoiding the injury bug. We just don’t have the numbers we had last year.”

(All games at 7 p.m.)
Aug. 17 – vs. Manitowoc Lutheran
Aug. 24 – at St. Mary Catholic
Aug. 31 – vs. Oostburg
Sept. 7 – at Reedsville
Sept. 14 – vs. Hilbert
Sept. 21 – at Random Lake
Sept. 28 – vs. Ozaukee
Oct. 5 – at Kohler/Sheboygan Lutheran Oct. 12 – vs. Laconia

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