Miscues and frustration bogged down the Italy Junior High Gladiators in the first half against Wortham. Covered in mud, Italy trailed the undefeated Bulldogs 12-0 at the break.
Desperate for some momentum, Italy’s Eric Carson returned the second half kick-off to the Wortham 49-yard line.
Once again, a mishandled pitch for a loss made the 15-yards needed for a 1st down seem uphill on a muddy slope. As a result, Italy was unable to capitalize on Carson’s big return and punted to the Bulldogs.
Wortham’s double-wing offense chewed up the clock gaining a couple of yards at a time. The Bulldogs then converted a 4th and 1 at midfield to earn a new set of downs. On the next play, disguised as the break Italy needed, the Bulldog pitch landed in the mud.
Before Italy’s defense could recover the ball, however, Wortham’s intended pitch man scooped it up and turned the busted play into a 50-yard touchdown, running untouched across the goal line.
The conversion failed and the third quarter ended with Wortham leading 18-0.
In the fourth, Italy’s first offensive play resulted in another fumble by the Gladiators giving the Bulldogs great field position near Italy’s 20-yard line. The Gladiator defense finally found it’s footing and forced Wortham to turn the ball over on downs.
Once again, Italy let the football slip through their fingers and into the clutches of a hungry Bulldog who ran it in for another Wortham touchdown. Italy was reluctant to give the Bulldogs 2 more points, but Wortham was content with their 24-0 lead.
Italy’s Darol Mayberry recovered the squib kick from Wortham resulting in good field position for the Gladiators. A few plays later, Italy turned the ball over on downs and the Bulldogs could smell a shutout.
With only 0:59 left in the game, and in dire need for something positive to happen, Italy’s defensive end, Bailey Walton, took matters into his own hands.
Noticing the Bulldog back didn’t have a sure grip on the ball, Walton ripped the ball away and rumbled 45-yards for a touchdown, tackled as he dropped across the goal line.
Italy’s Cody Medrano tried to run through the middle of the Bulldog defense for the 2-point conversion but was met by a brick wall painted blue and white.
Italy fans praised the smiling Walton as he returned to the sideline knowing his effort kept the Bulldogs from posting a shutout against the Gladiators.
The 3-2 Italy junior High Gladiators, 2-2 in District play, will try to regroup next Thursday against the Dawson Bulldogs starting at 6:00 p.m. in Dawson followed by the Italy JV game.