Gladiators gear up for Playoffs, tune-up against Itasca

Image: Standing strong — Gladiator fans formed a spirit line to help inspire the team to rally in the second half. The Gladiators trailed 30-8 by the end of the third quarter, however, the final score was 30-26 with Italy coming up just short on their comeback effort.

Standing strong — Gladiator fans formed a spirit line to help inspire the team to rally in the second half. The Gladiators trailed 30-8 by the end of the third quarter, however, the final score was 30-26 with Italy coming up just short on their comeback effort. (Anne Sutherland)

Italy plays Lovelady on Friday, November 13 starting at 7:30 p.m.
in Fairfield. – Go Gladiators!

ITASCA – Perhaps the Italy Gladiators were caught looking ahead to the playoffs before their district finale against the Itasca Wampus Cats. As a result, Italy got off to a slow start against Itasca. With Ryan Ashcraft taking an early exit from the game after dislocating a finger on his left hand, Italy trailed after the first quarter 8-0.

Later in the second quarter, Italy had a chance to tie the game after an Itasca punt. With 3:00 left before halftime, Italy went for it on 4th and goal but the ball was stripped and itasca recovered in their endzone for the touchback.

Itasca’s Desmond Guy capitalized on the turn of events when he scored on a 2-yard run to put Itasca up 16-0. Itasca’s quarterback Greg Mason adding the 2-point conversion, leaving 0:35 left in the first half.

That was all the time Italy’s offense needed as Italy quarterback Jasenio Anderson heaved a 47-yard pass to Clemons who made the grab in the endzone for 6-points with 0:04 left. Anderson added the 2-point conversion to make the score 16-8. The scoring play ended a 4th quarter scoring drought that began in the second half against Dawson last week.

In the 3rd quarter, with Italy’s Safety John Isaac slowed by a sore ankle and lineman Jacob Lopez icing his left ankle on the sideline, Itasca’s speed out of the backfield threatened to run away with the game. Mason sprinted for a 35-yard touchdown run followed by Guy’s 2-point conversion. Now ahead 24-8, Itasca’s Guy left the Gladiator defense in his wake as he coasted in for an 80-yard touchdown with 1:07 left in the 3rd. The conversion failed but the score was now 30-8.

Desperately needing a play, Italy shifted into fifth gear in the 4th, and drove down the field. Anderson connected with Clemons once again for another 47-yard touchdown pass. Anderson ran in for the extra 2-points making the score 30-16, pulling Gladiator fans back into the contest.

Italy’s defense forced Itasca to punt with 8:22 left in the 4th quarter. Italy took the ball at the 50-yard line and a couple of plays later, Heath Clemons ran 15-yards for a 1st down to Itasca’s 20. On the next play, unfortunately for Italy, Itasca’s Tevin Mayberry intercepted a pass at the Wampus Cat 7-yard line to preserve the 14-point advantage.

Italy’s defense began to get a handle on Guy and Mason with back-to-back tackles for a loss by Ross Enriquez and Ivan Roldan. Itasca punted once again.

With only 51 seconds remaining in the game, Anderson and Isaac finally combined forces for a 30-yard touchdown catch by Isaac. Again, Anderson scored the extra 2-points and the score was now 30-24.

Decision time for Italy’s Head Coach Craig Bales, Coach Bales opted to kick the ball back to Itasca, trusting his defense would stand strong against the Wampus Cats.

Trying to pick up the 1st down and end the Gladiator comeback, Mason dropped back into his own endzone and rolled right out to the pylon marking the goal line. Struggling to find an open receiver, Mason was sacked for a 2-point safety by Italy Linebacker Ethan Simon.

With the score 30-26, Itasca punted to the Gladiators by rule.

With no timeouts, Anderson had about 0:35 to work with. A catch by Thomas picked up yards but didn’t stop the clock when he was tackled in bounds. On the final play of the game, Anderson completed a pass to Desmond Anderson who’s knee touched at Itasca’s 12-yard line. The final seconds ticked off the clock and Itasca held on for the upset, 30-26.

The Gladiators finished tied for 2nd Place in District 21-A and will play Lovelady (10-0) on Friday, November 13 in Fairfield at 7:30.

“The team’s mood has been great this week and they are working hard to upset Lovelady. There will be a lot of people overlooking us, and we know that we can still make some noise,” said Coach Craig Bales.

Scoring Summary – Due to a clock malfunction during the game, here is a timeline of events:

First Quarter
Itasca(3:30)- Tevin Mayberry 25-yd TD pass from Greg Mason
Itasca(3:30)- Desmond Guy 2-point conversion

Second Quarter
Itasca(0:35)- Guy 2-yard run
Itasca(0:35)- Mason 2-point conversion
Italy(0:04)- Heath Clemons 47-yard pass from Jasenio Anderson
Italy(0:04)- Anderson 2-point conversion

Third Quarter
Itasca(9:40)- Mason 35-yard run
Itasca(9:40)- Guy 2-point conversion
Itasca(1:07)- Guy 80-yard run
Run No Good

Fourth Quarter
Italy(10:59)- Clemons 47-yard pass from Anderson
Italy(10:59)- Anderson 2-point conversion
Italy(0:51)- John Isaac 30-yard pass from Anderson
Italy(0:51)- Anderson 2-point conversion
Italy(:35)- 2-point Saftey

Player & Game Stats:

Name Rush Yds Comp PassYds TDPass Rec Yds TD Pts
J. Anderson 13 63 13-28 231 3 6
H. Clemons 1 15 4 110 2 12
A. Thomas 2 45
D. Anderson 4 34
J. Isaac 3 42 1 6
K. Wilkins 1 4
K. Jackson 13 124
E. Simon added a 2-point safety

Notable Season stats to date:

  • Jasenio Anderson completed 109 of 206 passes for 1,869-yards.
  • Jasenio Anderson rushed 168 times for 922-yards (5.49 Avg).
  • John Isaac caught 29 passes for 672-yards (23.17 Avg.).
  • Heath Clemons caught 26 passes for 474-yards (18.23 Avg.).
  • Desmond Anderson caught 33 passes for 306-yards (9.27 Avg.).
  • Aaron Thomas caught 12 passes for 266-yards (22.17 Avg.).
  • Justin Hayes rushed 34 times for 236-yards (6.94 Avg.).
  • Kyle Jackson rushed 25 times for 187-yards (7.48 Avg.).
  • Kyle Wilkins rushed 29 times for 159-yards (5.48 Avg.).
Stat Report Compliments of Craig Bales and CBS MaxPreps, Inc.