On a muddy and slick football field in Axtell, Texas, Italy quarterback Jasenio Anderson(11) kicked up 226 yards of pasture averaging over 6-yards per carry against the Longhorns.
And J. Anderson accomplished that in three quarters of play because Axtell chewed up almost the entire first quarter clock with one run after another up the middle. Italy’s defense did force Axtell to punt but the Longhorns faked it and picked up a first down in Gladiator territory.
The Longhorns continued to methodically move the ball down the field. Seemingly content gaining 1 or 2 yards at a time, Axtell’s quarterback didn’t even glance out at his 6’5" receiver who played decoy and blocker the entire game.
Bobby Wilson(64) and Jacob Lopez(52) split time at the noseguard position to try and slow down the persistent Longhorns. Linebackers, Ethan Simon(50) and J. Anderson, had a busy night filling the gaps.
The Longhorns reached the 1-yard line of Italy but were turned away when the Gladiator defense came through, with what could have been not just a game saving goal line stand, but a season saving goal line stand.
The heroic effort set the tone for the Gladiators who grew increasingly inspired as the game herded along. Only a few seconds remained at the end of the first for J. Anderson to move the ball away from Italy’s own goal line.
The second quarter was plagued with penalties, picks, punts and turnovers on downs. Axtell punted to Italy, with 0:41 seconds left in the half, giving the Gladiators one last chance to score before halftime.
Starting at the Longhorn 45-yard line, Italy completed a pass down to Axtell’s 15-yard line leaving 0:03 on the clock. On the next play, J. Anderson scrambled around in the backfield before he found Aaron Thomas(9) camped out at the goal line and fired a bullet pass to him for 6-points.
The PAT by J. Anderson counted and Italy led at the break 7-0.
The third quarter played out much like the first half. The battle was stuck between the hash marks with neither side willing to give ground. A Deandre Sephus(20) 21-yard reception looked as though the play might spark the Gladiators offense.
Unfortunately, after a Desmond Anderson(8) grab and a quarterback keeper failed to move the chains, J. Anderson had to punt with 7:13 left in the third.
After Italy forced the Lonhorns to turn the ball over on downs, Axtell reurned the favor and was looking at a third down and 4 as the quarter came to an end.
In the final 12:00, Axtell punted on 4th and 9 to Italy’s 31-yard line. J. Anderson ran for a first down to the Italy 45, with 9:39 showing on the scoreboard.
The next play was near disaster as a mishandled snap rolled into the laps of the Longhorns. Axtell’s offense then muddles the ball forward to the Gladiator 24-yard line.
Back-to-back penalties on Axtell left them with a first down and 25-yards to go for a first. On third and 19, Axtell’s receiver catches the ball but takes a hit from, John Isaac, who branded the Italy decal on the Longhorn’s backside.
Axtell punted on 4th and 12, after Italy’s defense did the job, keeping the Longhorns grazing near midfield and away from the Gladiator goal line.
Italy takes over at their own 35-yard line and another grab by D. Anderson, and a long run by J. Anderson, move the ball to Axtell’s 34-yard line giving Italy a first down with 5:12 remaining.
Italy negotiates the ball to Axtell’s 8-yard line. J. Anderson keeps the snap and runs through the middle of the Longhorns to increase Italy’s advantage on the scoreboard 13-0 lead, 3:31 left. The PAT was blocked.
Axtell, finally got their horns pointed in the right direction late in the game when they drove all the way to Italy’s 14-yard line with 2:21 still on the clock.
The Gladiator defense stood their ground one more time, erasing all hopes of a Longhorn comeback. Axtell stalled just 1-yard short of a first down, turning the ball back over to the Gladiators.
J. Anderson wisely ran out the clock on the Longhorns and improved Italy’s District record to 2-0. The Gladiators will face the Hubbard Jaguars Friday, October 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Italy.
Coach Craig Bales told his team after the game, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is you guys just played your worst game so far. The good news is, you found a way to win.”
O.K., so it was an exciting win to an unexciting game. Weeks of relentless rain washed away any traction on Axtell’s football field. The game may have been “ugly” but it feels pretty good being a Gladiator right now.
Player & Game Stats:
|J. Anderson||36||226||11-23||166||1||1 Run||7|
|A. Thomas||2||30||1 Rec||6|
- Clemons had 1 punt return for a total of 40-yards.
- Isaac had 1 kick return for 15-yards.
- J. Anderson had 2-punts for an average of 43-yards.
- Italy’s defense made 2 successful goal line stands to preserve the Gladiator’s 13-0 win.
- Clemons supplied the hit of the game when he decleated an unsuspecting Longhorn receiver.