Princeton ends Bureau Valley rivalry with a roar

Casey Etheridge, defense lead Tigers to 42-0 win in last meeting with Storm

Princeton's Casey Etheridge races for a long gainer at Bureau Valley Friday night. He scored three touchdowns in the Tigers' 42-0 win over the rival Storm.

MANLIUS - It started as the “Rumble vs. the Roar” 23 years ago. It ended Friday night with little rumble and a lot of roar.

The Class 3A No. 2 ranked Princeton Tigers defeated Bureau Valley 42–0 in what will be the last of five meetings between the Bureau County rivals.

The Tigers (6-1, 3-0) led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, 35-0 at the half and put the running clock into play midway through the third quarter. Sophomore running back Casey Etheridge led the Princeton charge with 212 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“Sad that we’re playing them for the last time, but it’s really good to end with a win, especially a 42-nothing win. Really boosts the confidence going into the final weeks of the season,” PHS junior two-way lineman Cade Odell said.

With the Storm moving to the Lincoln Trail-Prairieland Conference next year, this ended the short-lived football rivalry with Princeton winning all five meetings since 1997, including the past three seasons.

“I have respect for Mat (BV head coach Pistole) and everything he’s done with that program. I’ve certainly seen great strides over the course of four years he’s been there now,” Princeton coach Ryan Pearson said. “Being so close, geographically, I would love to keep the rivalry going, but they’re moving to the LPC. It’s a little bitter sweet, because I’d like to keep playing them, but I wish those guys the best of luck as well.”

Princeton lineman Payne Miller lifts teammate Noah LaPorte after he scored a touchdown Friday night at Bureau Valley.

Pistole laughed and said he had a yes and no answer about missing playing the Tigers again.

“They’ve been really, really good the past few years. I’m glad not to have to play some of these athletes, but at the same time, yeah, they’re a rival, make no mistake about it,” he said. “We’re going to miss that rivalry. We never really got it off the ground from the football perspective.”

Things started out rough for the Storm when quarterback Bryce Helms lost the snap on the first play from scrimmage.

Two plays later, Preston Arkels cashed in for a 9-yard Tiger touchdown, just 49 seconds into the contest.

“You can’t turn the ball over like that. Just lack of execution on our part early and Princeton, being the good team they are, jumped on us and never looked back,” Pistole said.

Etheridge raced for scores of 45 yards and 41 yards to make it 21-0 by the end of the first quarter.

Odell said it’s always fun blocking for Etheridge, who can use any little hole and take it all the way.

“I enjoy it so much, and Casey makes it look way easier than it is. He’s way better than anybody gives him credit,” he said.

Princeton's Casey Etheridge runs behind teammates Noah LaPorte and Preston Arkels Friday night at Bureau Valley.

Before the half, Arkels scored again on a 2-yard run and quarterback Will Lott hit Noah LaPorte for a 16-yard touchdown strike to give the Tigers’ a 35-0 lead at the half with Carlos Benavidez making good on all five PAT attempts.

Etheridge found paydirt one more time for a 20-yard touchdown at the 8:20 mark of the third quarter as the Tigers enforced the running clock the rest of the way.

Pistole said he was disappointed to not put any points on the board. Bureau Valley was held to 102 total net yards of offense (75 rushing) against a stingy Tiger defense.

“We just didn’t play well enough to stay with a really good team. They’re good defensively. Obviously, a Bureau Valley guy running the defense, so they’re going to be good on defense,” Pistole said, referencing Bureau Valley grad Patrick Smith, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. “They’re really sound and do things extremely well defensively and they play really hard and they deserve a lot of the credit for stopping us.”

Pearson said he was pleased with the win, but not necessarily how the Tigers went about doing it.

“Bottom line, we wanted to come over here and take care of business. I thought we had a better first half than what we did last week,” he said. “We still have some things we have to shore up. Too many penalties, bobbled snaps, little things that add up. We were able to get away with it, but when we get into the playoffs, those are the things we’ve got to shore up or they’re going to come back and bite us.”

“Hopefully, we got it out of our system. We can go back and watch film and show some things that we got to get better at. To be honest, the only team that stopped Princeton tonight was Princeton. And we just can’t have that.”

The Storm (3-4) will need to win their final remaining games with Aurora Central Catholic and Morrison to make the playoffs.

Bureau Valley's Corban Chhim tries to avoid Princeton tacklers Friday night.