With only 11 players suited up, the Italy 7th Grade team took on Malakoff in the first of three games on Thursday. The Italy defense had success early on led by defensive end John Byers (54) and tackle Kelton Bales (55) while teammates Tyler Vincell (75), James Prator (74), Kyle Fortenberry (58), Tristan Jackson (9) and Sam Hilliard (89) helped plug the middle.
Offensively, a pass completion from J.T. Escamilla (7) to Chase McGinnis (84) fired up Gladiator fans as the catch marked McGinnis’s first career reception.
The bulk of the running fell on the shoulders, and left hand, of Colton Petry (6) who has been toughing it out with a broken right hand.
Malakoff eventually managed to put 8-points on the board to take an 8-0 lead at the half.
The 3rd quarter saw no scoring but was highlighted by a fumble in the Malakoff backfield forced by Byers. The ball was scooped up by the Malakoff quarterback who reversed field but was stopped for a loss by McGinnis who came flying in from his cornerback spot for the take down.
Malakoff scored again with 4:40 left in the 4th quarter and then added the 2-point conversion for a 16-0 advantage. Thanks to a final goal line stand by the 7th Grade defense to end the contest, Malakoff was unable to add to the score.
Bales made sure of that making 3-tackles in a row inside the Italy 5-yard line. The valiant stand should give these true iron-men momentum when they travel to Frost next week along with the 8th Grade team.
In the same chariot as the 7th Grade, the 8th Graders could only field 11 players against Malakoff as well. However, when Italy’s Eric Carson (10) opened the game with a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, it seemed 11 players would be all Italy would need. The conversion was no good but Italy had the early 6-0 lead.
Just before the half, with seconds left on the clock, Italy tried a pass play in order to increase their lead. Unfortunately, the pass was intercepted and returned all the way for a Malakoff touchdown. The 2-point conversion counted giving Malakoff a critical 8-6 lead on a deteriorating running surface.
With the rain streaming down in the 3rd, neither side could sustain a scoring drive. A tackle in the backfield by Cody Medrano (28) forced a Malakoff punt but Italy’s offensive wheels were stuck spinning in the mud.
Malakoff threatened to score again late in the 4th but thanks to Italy’s defensive muscle provided by Hank Seabolt (60), Kevin Roldan (62) and Tristin Smithwick (57) the drive stalled. Italy had one last chance but their futile efforts bogged down and the game ended with Malakoff holding on for the win 8-6.
Malakoff shocked the Italy JV team who’s passing game was ineffective in the rain and mud. Initially, Italy seemed to be headed toward another win after a punt was mishandled by Malakoff and Gladiator Corrin Frazier (25) scooped it up and strolled into the endzone to give Italy a 6-0 lead, 8:00 left in 1st quarter.
Malakoff got rolling after the kickoff and scored on a 35-yard run to make the score 8-6 after the conversion, 4:40 left in the 1st. Italy tried to respond on their next possession with a 7-yard run by Frazier to Malakoff’s 44-yard line. The ensuing snap sailed over quarterback Tony Wooldridge’s head giving Italy a 3rd down and 13 on their own 42.
Wooldridge tried a deep pass to Jase Holden but the attempt was picked off by Malakoff with 0:30 left in the 1st. Italy’s defensive end Kyle Jackson (28) ended the quarter with a bang when he hit the Tiger pitch man head-on and over heels for an 8-yard loss.
To start the 2nd quarter, Malakoff got the 8-yards back and more with a screen pass down to Italy’s 30-yard line, forcing Devonta Simmons to make a touchdown saving tackle. Two plays later, Malakoff’s quarterback cut through the middle of the JV Gladiator defense for a 33-yard touchdown run. Malakoff completed a pass for the 2-point conversion and the Tigers were suddenly in control 16-6, 8:44 left in the half.
Malakoff added another T.D. to make the score 22-6 with 3:03 remaining in the half. However, the Tigers fumbled the ball on the conversion attempt and Gladiator linebacker Chase Hamilton (10) retrieved the ball out of a mud puddle and rumbled 95-yards putting 2-points on the board for the home team.
The Tigers tried an onside kick but Reid Jacinto (48) made a diving effort to save the posession for Italy. Jacinto’s play set up a 47-yard touchdown run by Jackson to close in on Malakoff’s lead 22-14. Hamilton snuck across the goal for the 2-point conversion to make the score 22-16 with 1:31 left before halftime.
Malakoff threatened to score before the half but a near intercept by Simmons and an alert tackle by Hamilton to foil another Tiger screen pass kept the score 22-16 at the break.
At the 5:15 mark in the 3rd, Malakoff scored again to make it 28-16 Tigers. And again Malakoff fumbled the ball on the 2-point try and again Hamilton snatched it out of the watery muck and trampled 95-yards for another 2-points for Italy. Hamilton’s nose for the ball made the score 28-18.
With 0:17 left in the 3rd, the Tigers scored one last time on a 27-yard run. Italy’s Paul Harris (88) made certain Malakoff’s pass for the 2-point conversion was unsuccessful and the score was 34-18 going into the 4th.
Italy scrambled to score in the final period with the Tigers punctuating the period with another interception. The mud covered, rain soaked JV Gladiators received their 1st loss of the season but expect them to rally against Axtell in two weeks on October 8, in Italy at 7:00 p.m.
Additional footage from Lee Hamilton: