While he had a lean start taking over his hometown football program, going 0-9 in 2019, 0-4 in the 2021 spring season, and 3-6 in the 2021 fall season, Bureau Valley coach Mat Pistole likes the direction the Storm are heading entering the 2022 season.
Numbers are up, the coaching staff remains stable, and the enthusiasm is in place for a solid season this fall.
“I’m really excited with the progress our kids have made over this offseason, primarily from a numbers standpoint where we should be over 45 kids in the program. That is well over the number we have had in the program in my previous three years,” Pistole said.
“The kids have really bought in, and we create a fun environment that has helped us recruit the hallways. This is going to allow us to more effectively practice, and the freshmen and varsity can practice separately, doubling the reps and increasing quality of reps for both levels.
“In the past, the lack of numbers hurt our young kids’ development while also not allowing for the quality of reps for our varsity. We couldn’t be more excited about this development.”
The Storm will be going from having a lot of experience in its backfield last year and inexperience on the line to the opposite situation this fall.
The Storm’s experience starts up front with seniors Ayize Martin and Cameron Lillie and juniors Jon Dybek and Connor Scott, all two-year returning starting linemen. Martin, Dybek and Scott are returning all-conference honorable mention players.
“They will anchor everything we do, and everything for us will start up front,” Pistole said. “Needless to say, we are thrilled to have the athleticism, experience and physicality returning up front.”
Pistole said the Storm are blessed with depth up front, and expects juniors Nolan Nugent, Carter Hartz, Aidan Morris and Blake Erickson to be able to contribute.
Senior Isaac Attig, who split time at running back last year, is the only returner in the backfield. He and sophomore Bryce Helms are vying for starting quarterback duties, with both playing key roles offensively, Pistole said.
Senior Mason Goossens, sophomore Elijah Endress, and juniors Cameron Lemons and Robert Novak should handle most of the carries, Pistole said.
BV’s receiving duties will be handled by a pair of juniors in Brock Shane, whom Pistole calls “one of the best route runners I’ve ever been around,” and Eli Attig.
Martin and Dybek, who Pistole said have all-conference potential, will anchor the defensive line. Other contributors on the D-line will be Hartz, Morris, Lillie and Erickson.
Scott, the returning leading tackler (62) and “best defensive player” last year, heads up the linebacker corps again. Pistole said Scott gets the most out of his abilities.
“Connor is undersized, but pound for pound is one of the toughest and most sound fundamental linebackers I’ve been around,” he said.
To be successful this year, Scott said the Storm have to be a family.
“Everybody has to work together every single play, don’t take plays off. We all have to work for each other. There’s no one person on the team,” Scott said.
Lemons, who returns to the team this year after sitting out last year, will also help at linebacker along with Nugent, Endress and Helms.
Isaac Attig, a returning starter, Brock Shane, Eli Attig, Helms, and Robert Novak man the defensive backfield.
The Storm’s kicking duties are in good hands, Pistole said, with Shane as the placekicker and Endress as punter, who both have “all-conference potential.”
Pistole pointed to the continuity with his coaching staff as being crucial to the Storm’s gains on the field.
“Our coaching staff has now been intact for three years, and we are speaking the same language and rowing the same direction, not to mention our staff is filled with incredibly quality men who have the best interests of these kids in mind,” he said.
“Continuity within a coaching staff is huge, and you can see that the kids know the expectations and understand what we are trying to do, so it allows us to focus on more of the finite details and increase our level of intensity.”
With a Week 1 opponent now in place with the addition of Villa Grova, a replacement for Riverdale, which canceled its varsity season, the Storm are ready for some football.
“New year, new opportunities, and we are super jacked up to get going,” Pistole said. “We continue to pound the stone every day, attacking the process and getting better each day. The kids have been awesome, and I can’t wait to spend the next three months with this group.”