The Pulaski boys soccer team says the same thing before every game.
One. Two. Three. Butch.
That’s the chant for Butch Reimer, who died in 2010 after a battle with leukemia. He was the co-soccer coach at Pulaski who also served stints as coach for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay softball and Nordic ski teams. His contributions and efforts never went unnoticed.
“The guy did everything he could for the program,” said Pulaski coach Eric Urben, who is in his first season after serving as an assistant under Ted Sarosiek. “Hopefully, I can do anywhere near what he did.
“The reason I came back, and it’s important to be said, was Butch Reimer continued the program when nobody else would.”
The Pulaski program is important to Urben. His father, Bruce, helped put the team on the map as the coach in the 1990s. Eric, who graduated from Pulaski in 1996, was a three-time all-state selection for the Red Raiders and went on to play at UWGB.
When his wife, former Phoenix softball star Debbie Kind, made a speech for Reimer when he was posthumously inducted into UWGB’s Hall of Fame last year, it got Urben thinking.
“I said, ‘Why don’t I give back?'” Urben said. “I have to give back to the program that gave to me. That’s why I’m here today.”
Urben feels no pressure to live up to what his father did at Pulaski or what Reimer brought to the team.
So far, he’s doing a pretty good job himself.
The Red Raiders have been one of the top squads in the Fox River Classic Conference this season, which would not have been predicted by many a few months ago.
Pulaski lost reigning offensive player of the year Alex Mijal to graduation, and with a new coach, expectations weren’t as high as they are now although the team went 19-2-2 and made it to sectionals a year ago.
“Not at all,” Green Bay East coach Mike Bootz said. “I think a lot of us thought last year was a special year. They were very emotionally charged with the loss of Butch.
“So, no, we didn’t expect that. That’s why you have to give Urben a lot of credit. He kind of put that program back where it should be, because they do have a lot of numbers. It’s the kind of program that could be good for a lot of years.”
It’s no secret how the Red Raiders are getting it done. They entered the week behind Green Bay Preble for the top spot in the FRCC, and they have their defense to thank for it.
Urben perhaps sums it up best when he says a team can’t lose if it doesn’t give up a goal, and Pulaski hasn’t allowed many.
The Red Raiders started the season posting four shutouts and blanked opponents in seven of their first eight games.
One of the most impressive performances came against East, a team that often has little trouble scoring but couldn’t find the back of the net against Pulaski in a 1-0 loss.
“Those kids work very hard,” Bootz said. “I think that’s why they are so good defensively. They really have an up-tempo, athletic team that really hustles.”
To be a great team, to compete with No. 3-ranked Preble for the league championship or beat No. 6-ranked Kimberly instead of losing 1-0 like Pulaski did on Saturday, it realizes it will have to find a way to start scoring more goals when October arrives and tournament play begins.
The Red Raiders have better offensive balance without Mijal, since opposing squads can’t zone in on one player.
One night it could be Ryan Hansen, Sean Cropper or Ian Duke that scores a big goal. The next it could be Michael Knauer, Kyler Berg or Brandon Buhr.
It’s just that there hasn’t been enough of those nights, or enough goals scored, to satisfy Urben or his players.
“Everything we do is built toward the postseason,” Urben said. “Absolutely, I want to get another shot at the top teams in the conference. Our goal right now is to finish with the highest seed we can and give us the best opportunity to move forward.
“At the end of the day, if we play those teams in the sectional final, we will play 80 minutes. Let’s make it happen.”