STUTTGART, Germany -- The Stuttgart Panthers edged the visiting Ramstein Royals 31-28 in a furious Friday-night start to the 2019 DODEA-Europe season.

The Panthers trailed by a touchdown at halftime but held the reigning champions to just seven second-half points. Stuttgart fullback Josh Olive punched in a late fourth-quarter touchdown - his second of the game - for the decisive touchdown. Soon after, Panther defender Cam Bochannek chased down a Ramstein receiver headed for a potential go-ahead score and knocked the ball out of the end zone for a game-saving touchback.

Stuttgart quarterback Alec Kenfield completed seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown pass to Jacob Ratcliff. Olive carried 13 times for 46 yards, while Jordan McCullough gathered 70 yards on eight rushes.

Cody Evenson paced the Panther defense with eight tackles, while Nelson Hernandez returned an interception for the game’s opening points.

Stuttgart’s win over the defending champion Royals falls into a pattern for the Panthers, who are targeting a third title in five seasons after winning European championships in 2015 and 2017.

Friday’s win, however, doesn’t count towards playoff contention. All three of the opening weekend’s Division I games were of the non-conference variety and won’t be considered when determining the four teams that will advance to the semifinal round. The conference schedule starts next weekend with both Stuttgart and Ramstein on the road, at Kaiserslautern and Lakenheath, respectively.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now