ERIE – The beginning of a new era in Bureau Valley football didn’t get off to a strong start Friday.
Erie-Prophetstown’s season instead kicked off with a bang.
The Panthers forced pair of Storm fumbles in the first half that led to a pair of touchdowns. From there, they continued to roll in a 33-14 Three Rivers crossover win at Wayne Hein Field.
The Mat Pistole era at Bureau Valley appeared to get off to a good start two plays into the game. Tucker Hartz escaped a pair of tackles in the backfield and marched 57 yards for a quick 7-0 Storm lead just 45 seconds in.
However, Brady Ballard and Logan Wheeler came up big on defense for the Panthers and played spoiler to the first-year Storm coach’s debut.
Ballard recovered a fumble with 12.1 seconds left in the first quarter after Storm quarterback Dalton Dean was stripped while he dropped back to pass. Wheeler recovered the Storm’s second cough-up with 5:45 left in the second after a run play.
Ross Purvis capped the drive Ballard began with a 2-yard scamper, and Hunter Oleson closed out Wheeler’s with a 6-yard reception from Eric Robinson for a 14-7 Panthers lead.
“I saw one of my teammates pop the ball out, and God had me in the right place in the right time,” Wheeler said. “I was able to go in and hop on it.”
Those 14 points were the start of 33 in a row for the Panthers.
“We did some good things, but unfortunately when you don’t tackle real well and turn the ball well, it isn’t going to go well for you,” Pistole said.
The Panthers opened the second half with a nine-play drive capped by a 1-yard run from Oleson for a 21-7 advantage and proceeded to control the ball for the duration of the game.
Oleson tacked on two more scores, having four total, while the Panthers amassed 15 second-half first downs before the Storm could manage their first of the final half, which came with 4 minutes to play in the game. The Storm averaged just 4 yards per carry.
“It’s a great start. It’s exactly what we needed,” Oleson said. “We couldn’t stress this enough as a team to start off the season 1-0. We worked so hard for this all spring and all summer long. We believed in ourselves, and I don’t think anyone else did.”