FAIRFIELD – The Italy Gladiators(5-4) who finished tied for 2nd in District 21-A were matched against the Lovelady Lions(10-0) and their 19-seniors who have been champions of their district for the past 5 years and lost in a semi-final game just 4 years ago under the direction of Head Coach Kery Therwanger.
Needless to say, Italy Head Coach Craig Bales and his Gladiators had a monsterous challenge ahead of them as they took the field in Fairfield Friday night.
To start the game, the Gladiators seemed unimpressed with the competition’s credentials and were not very gentleman-like to Lovelady in the first quarter.
A pass from Italy’s Junior quarterback Jasenio(11) Anderson to sophomore Kyle Jackson(28) put the Gladiators on the board first. After Anderson added the PAT, Italy led 7-0.
Soon after, after forcing the Lions to punt, Anderson moved the Gadiators down field for their second touchdown of the first quarter. Senior John Isaac(10) did the honors and Anderson kicked the PAT to silence the roar from the Lovelady fans and give Italy a 14-0 lead.
Both sides traded blows and punts the remainder of the quarter until the Lions found the endzone with 2:09 left in the first. the PAT fell short and Italy senior Desmond Anderson(8) caught the duck and ran out of the endzone but was tackled out near the 20-yard line.
Italy’s Anderson quickly retaliated by completing a pass to senior Aaron Thomas(9) for 17-yards and a first down at midfield. Now in the second quarter, the Lion defense began to zero in on #11 causing Italy’s drive to stall.
Anderson then sent a 60-yard punt down to the Lovelady 6-yard line. It looked as though things were about to get worse for the Lions when Gladiator noseguard, senior Bobby Wilson(64), recovered a fumble at Lovelady’s 15-yard line.
The Lions avoided catastrophy when Lovelady’s Taylor Therwanger(5) intercepted Anderson at the 5-yard line with 10:06 still to go in the second quarter.
Scorned, Lovelady finally made an impression on the Gladiators witha 78-yard touchdown run at the 8:52 mark. The effort made the score 14-12 proving the Lions could pack a punch.
Italy tried to respond again moving the ball into Lovelady territory. On fourth down and 3-yards to go, Anderson kept the ball and run up the middle but was stopped short of the first down and the Lions took over on downs.
The Lions advanced the ball to heir 44-yard line with 3:25 left in the first half. Lovelady’s Trey Sherman(28) then rocketed 56-yards for a lead changing touchdown to give the Lions momentum and the lead 18-14.
The Lions added one more score before the end of the first half when Lovelady’s quarterback Jordy Denson(8) galloped 27-yards for the 6-points with 0:39 remaining.
Just as quick as Italy had exploded out from under their tunnel to score 14 straight points, the Lions finished the first half with a bang, rallying to take a 24-14 lead into the break.
The Lions continued to roll in the third quarter. At the 10:40 mark, Lovelady’s Christian Harris(32) rumbled 50-yards for another Lion touchdown. The conversion counted and Lovelady was in control 32-14.
Desperate to stay close, Italy’s Anderson connected with junior Heath Clemons(2) for a 44-yard catch and score. Anderson’s PAT made the game 31-21 allowing Gladiator fans to cling to hope.
The Lions offense managed one first down after another driving all the way to Italy’s 13-yard line. With 4:11 left in the third, Lovelady’s Denson ran a quarterback keeper up the middle to increase the Lion advantage 38-21.
On Italy’s ensuing possession, the snap sailed over Anderson’s head and Italy eventually punted with 2:00 to go in the quarter. Another solid punt by Anderson backed the Lions inside their own 20-yard line, thanks to a Lions penalty on the return. The third came to a close but the door was still open for the Gladiators.
Lovelady’s ensuing drive earned them another touchdown as Italy’s defense was unable to slow the maroon surge. The Lions went up 45-21 with 8:06 remaining in the contest.
Italy kept charging behind the leadership of Anderson who completed passes to seniors Oscar Gonzalez(3) and Thomas to move the Gladiators closer to the 50-yard line. Three plays later, Anderson was sacked bringing up a 4th and 18 punt by Italy. Anderson took out his frustrations as he booted the ball 67-yards to pin the Lions down on their 2-yard line.
The Lions showed no concerns as Lovelady’s Harris went on a 1-man convoy shedding Gladiators on his way to an 81-yard, coffin-nailing, touchdown run. The PAT counted and the Lovelady Lions disposed of the Gladiators 52-21 to claim the bi-district championship.
The season may not have ended the way Gladiator fans had hoped, but congratulations are certainly in order to Italy Head Coach Craig Bales and his coaching staff consisting of Robert Sollers, Kyle Holley, Steve Coleman, Matt Coker and Josh Ward, the incredible players and their families, Clover Stiles and the IHS Cheerleaders and Mascots, the Gladiator Regiment Band directed by Jesus Perez and the Color Guard guided by Tina Richards, The Crew, home game announcer Greg Richards, Karen Mathiowetz, the Booster Club, Principal Tanya Parker, Superintendent/AD Jimmie Malone and countless others who had a hand in helping to restore a winning Gladiator tradition.
Player & Game Stats:
|J. Anderson had one punt go 60-yards and another for 67-yards|
Jasenio Anderson’s offensive totals on the season:
|Stat Report Compliments of Craig Bales and MaxPreps, Inc.|