Francis Howell’s boys soccer team made history a season ago in winning the school’s first state championship.
Gone are the Vikings top four scorers from a club that went 20-7-1 in claiming the Class 4 championship.
Add to that having to replace standout goalkeeper Matt Hunt, who has graduated, and no one would fault the Vikings for setting their sights a bit lower this season.
That is hardly the case, as the Vikings head into the 2016 campaign with plenty of confidence and belief they can make another strong postseason run.
“I feel it’s a good group of guys and we lost some guys from last year’s team and have just three starters coming back but we’ve got a lot of experience coming back,” Howell coach Michael Enright said. “I think they have embraced the process of being successful.”
The backbone of the Vikings club is the backline, which loaded with experience in the form of junior defender Caden Castello, junior defender Will Clayton, and senior defender Josh Bragen.
Having a veteran group of defenders, figures to make life a little easier in goal for senior goalie Cameron Wiggins. Wiggins will replace Hunt in goal after spending last season playing on the Howell junior varsity roster.
“The keeper is just one part of the defense, so hopefully those guys will just help Cameron make nice, smooth transition with organizing marks and things defensively,” Enright ssaid.
Enright noted that while it will be tough to replace the scoring of Jake Totty, Joel Jenkins, Ryan Zile, and Jake Taylor. For this squad, scoring production will be much more of a group effort by the Vikings now.
Forward David Brown, Zach Eyler, Matt Peters, and Connor Riley are expected to help fill the scoring void. Sophomores Brady Glon and Tommy Naumann are also being counted on to help out as well.
“It’s going to be kind of offensive production by committee and hopefully one or two of those guys will become the more consistent guy,” Enright said.
“Last year we had four or five guys that produced for us so I hope we can have equal or similar production and it will be a little baptism by fire for some guys.”
The 2016 Vikings got a promising early look at their potential in mid-July at the STL Varsity Soccer Showcase tournament played at the St. Louis Youth Soccer Complex.
Howell got to play teams from Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas in the three-day event and fared well in the tournament despite being in a tough bracket.
The weekend action included a hard-fought one goal win over Kansas power Washburn Rural.
“We played a really tough bracket with elite teams from Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri so even though they haven’t played an official game yet in the regular season, they have been able to match up against some of the regions best (teams),” Enright said. “It was a good measuring stick and if things fall into place we can continue to compete at a high level.”
Francis Howell opens the season on August 20 against Missouri Military Academy in the Fort Zumwalt East Kickoff Classic.