Gladiators blast into Wortham, Bulldogs self-destruct

Image: Direct hits — Italy Head Coach Craig Bales directs his Kickoff squadron to fire it deep into enemy territory. All 6 kicks dropped inside Wortham’s 10-yard line with 1 rolling into the endzone for a touchback.

Direct hits — Italy Head Coach Craig Bales directs his Kickoff squadron to fire it deep into enemy territory. All 6 kicks dropped inside Wortham’s 10-yard line with 1 rolling into the endzone for a touchback. (Anne Sutherland)

1st Quarter
The Italy Gladiators blasted into Wortham’s Bulldog Stadium and pounded “Big Blue” into submission. Italy’s high powered offensive did not rely on it’s air attack in this one, instead the Gladiators defeated the Bulldogs at their own running game.

Wortham’s double-wing offensive is designed to control the clock, keep the scoring low and allow their husky line to wear down opposing defenses.

With Italy’s long-range weapons proving ineffective against the Bulldogs, head coach and field general, Craig Bales, switched tactics and laid down some cover fire across Wortham’s secondary to open running lanes for quarterback Jasenio Anderson(11) and company.

Anderson, Kyle Wilkins(7), Justin Hayes(36) and sophomore secret weapon Kyle Jackson(28) helped the Gladiators ambush the Bulldogs in their own back yard. Proving Italy could win with it’s running game as well as the pass.

Wortham took the opening kickoff and on their second play ran the ball all the way to Italy’s 40-yard line. A penalty gave Wortham a 1st-down on Italy’s 30-yard line. From there, the Bulldogs methodically marched the ball for a 1st and 10 inside Italy’s 10-yard line.

Wortham’s offense was doing exactly what Italy’s defensive coordinator Robert Sollers expected they would and implored his defensive to dig in. The Gladiators pointed all eleven of their guns at the Bulldog backfield and won the first battle of the war with a goal line stand on 4th and 2.

With 5:26 still to go in the first quarter, Anderson kept the ball and willed his way to Italy’s 22-yard line, giving the Gladiator offense breathing room. After completing medium range passes to Heath Clemons(2) and Oscar Gonzalez(3) to give Italy a 1st and 10 on Wortham’s 45-yard line, Anderson kept the ball on the ground and converted a 4th and 1 into a 1st down on Wortham’s 15-yard line with 1:19 left in the 1st.

Moments later, a Kyle Wilkins dive placed the ball at Wortham’s 2-yard line with 0:39 on the clock. Anderson would pound it in from there with 0:22 to go as well as add the PAT kick to give Italy 7-0 advantage.

Italy’s Aaron Thomas(9) tackled the Bulldog returner at the Wortham 22 but the Bulldogs had 2nd and 1, on the their own 31, going into the second.

2nd Quarter
After passing for the 1st down a Bulldog reverse moved Wortham all the way to Italy’s 13-yard line. Thanks to a deflected pass in the back of the endzone by Italy’s John Isaac(10), Wortham’s second trip into the red zone stalled and the Gladiators took over on their own 10 with 8:30 left in the second quarter.

After a 50-yard punt by Anderson, Italy’s All-State Kicker, Wortham ventured to the Gladiator 45-yard line with 3:53 left in the period. A roughness call against the Gladiators gave Wortham momentum helping them get in the fight and into the endzone, closing the gap 7-6. The PAT failed, thanks to a hard tackle by Anderson from his linebacker position, but the damage was done.

With 1:02 left before halftime, Italy’s Anderson responded by leading the Gladiators into scoring position. Unfortunately, a pass intended for Isaac at the Wortham goal line was picked-off keeping Italy from adding points to their side of the scoreboard.

Italy had chances to end the war early but only had a 7-6 lead going into a halftime. Although playing well on the enemies turf, Coach Bales realized Wortham had scored a moral victory by keeping the game close.

3rd quarter:
If Coach Bales had any concerns as the Gladiators took the field to start the second half, Italy fans erased all doubts by shouting words of encouragement in a showing support for their troops. The positive outpouring seemed to be the spark that ignited the fuel that would ignite the Gladiators.

A fired-up Anderson took the second half kickoff to Italy’s 37-yard line. Italy continued to move downfield, invading Wortham’s territory. Italy finally penetrated Wortham’s last line of defense, at the 8:48 mark of the 3rd, when Wilkins crossed the goal line from 3-yards out. Anderson added the PAT and Italy was winning the war 14-6.

With 6:24 left in the period, Wortham was forced to punt. The snap was low and Worthams punter’s knee touched the ground when he reached down to make the catch. Italy fans cheered as the miscue gave the Gladiators 1st and 10 on Wortham’s 17-yard line.

An unsportsman like penalty against the Bulldogs moved Italy closer to Wortham’s goal. Being out flanked, out manuevered and out coached, the Bulldogs began to spiral out of control. Second half unsportsman like and late hit penalties sent yellow hankies exploding into the air like tracers marking the acts of aggression.

The game became so explosive, in fact, that one Wortham player was ejected with both sides being warned. With Italy threatening to score, the head referee tried to mediate a peace treaty when he had Italy’s offensive Captain Jasenio Anderson and Wortham’s Jake Jones shake hands. But when Italy’s Anderson put 6-more points on the board with a run from 6-yards out, the treaty was broken as far as the Bulldog’s were concerned.

The Anderson PAT counted, and with 5:21 left in the 3rd, Italy was instructed to take no prisoners with a 21-6 lead.

Wortham manged to put together a campaign on their next drive and used a 15-yard penalty against Italy to get to the Gladiator 21. A Wortham unsportsman like penalty backed them to Italy’s 37-yard line.

Wortham tried to make up the lost yardage but the pass was intercepted by Anderson who advanced the ball to the Bulldog 46 with 2:09 left in the third.

Anderson eventually scored on the ensuing drive with another touchdown run and just 0:18 left on the third quarter clock. Anderson added the PAT again to make the score 27-6.

4th quarter:
In the final quarter, a long run on a quarterback keeper by Brandon Lansford gave the Bulldogs 1st and 10 on Italy’s 19-yard line after Clemons made the tackle for the Gladiators.

Wortham’s Hance Spencer lost the head on collision with Italy’s Linebacker Ethan Simon(50) but did get the ball to the 15-yard line. Italy’s Desmond Anderson(8) made a stop at the 5 but Wortham scored 6-points soon after. Italy’s defensive tackle Ivan Roldan was injured on the Wortham touchdown and was out for the game with 9:49 left.

The score was now 27-12 with Italy trying to run down the clock, but a holding penalty left them with 2nd and 17 at the 8:50 mark of the fourth. With Roldan out, Anderson received pressure on his pass attempt to get back the penalty yards. Unfortunately, Italy was intercepted again with 8:50 still to go leaving Wortham with great field postion.

The Bulldogs tried to pull off a fourth quarter rally in front of their “Dog Pound” but Italy’s defense pinned their ears back and responded. D. Anderson intercepted a Lansford pass attempt to halt the Bulldogs and give the ball back to Italy’s offense.

Italy took over on their own 35 and Anderson sprinted right and then cut back across the field for 40-yards down to Wortham’s 25-yard line. A late hit on Anderson sent him into the “Dog Pound’s” fence but the resulting penalty placed the ball at Wortham’s 13-yard line.

Italy’s Kyle Jackson(28) rocketed straight through the Bulldog defense for the 13-yard touchdown. Anderson kicked his fifth straight PAT in the game and Italy was well on it’s way to being 4-0 in District play, leading 35-12 with 7:27 remaining.

After the kickoff, Wortham’s offense moved the ball across midfield to the Italy 40-yard line with 4:28 to go. A few plays later, a big hit by Italy’s defense forced a Bulldog fumble and the Gladiators took over with 2:58 left.

Italy’s Hayes and Wilkins helped to run out the clock as Italy won enough of the battles to win the war against the army of Bulldogs, 35-12.

Italy will host a tough 6-1 Dawson team on Senior Night at Willis Field in Italy on Friday, starting at 7:30 p.m. Be there to help cheer on the Gladiators as they try to go 5-0 in District play.

Player & Game Stats:

Player Rush Yds Comp Passing TDPass Rec RecYds TDs Pts
J. Anderson 14 126 8-13 111 3 Run 23
H. Clemons 1 17 1 4
A. Thomas 1 19
D. Anderson 1 6
J. Isaac 3 41
D. Sephus 1 27
O. Gonzalez 1 24
K. Wilkins 6 33 1 Run 6
J. Hayes 11 62
K. Jackson 3 26 1 Run 6

Stat Report Compliments of Craig Bales and CBS MaxPreps, Inc.