Maypearl wins season opener by a foot over Italy, 23-19

Image: Breaking tackles — Jasenio Anderson(11) sneaks thru the Panther line for valuable yardage.

Breaking tackles — Jasenio Anderson(11) sneaks thru the Panther line for valuable yardage. (Barry Byers)

Maypearl — A cut back run by Maypearl’s quarterback Conner Vaughan gave the Panthers an early 6-0 lead over the Italy Gladiators at the 7:08 mark of the first quarter. Cody Aydelott added the extra point to make the score 7-0. After both sides traded punts, a run by Kyle Wilkins gave Italy a first down at midfield. Italy’s quarterback Jasenio Anderson found receiver Heath Clemons down Maypearl’s sideline for a first down at the Panthers 20-yard line.

A play by the Panthers’ defense backed Italy up 5-yards. The loss of yards proved no problem for Anderson as he connected down field with Colton Campbell who crossed the goal line untouched to make the game 7-6. The P.A.T. kick by Anderson tied the rivalry game 7-7, 9:00 left in the second quarter.

Maypearl was forced to punt once again. A false start penalty backed Italy up to their own 15-yard line. An Anderson pass created an interference call against the Panthers’ defense giving Italy a first down at their own 30-yard line. The next play introduced the Gladiators’ latest weapon to the district. Jalarnce Jamal Lewis took the handoff from Anderson and went inside-out for a 70-yard touchdown sprint to give Italy their first lead of the game 13-7. The conversion failed but the Gladiators had the momentum, 8:00 left in the half.

Italy’s Kyle Jackson disrupts Maypearl’s option play causing the Panther’s to punt it away. De’Andre Sephus advanced the kick to Maypearl’s 45-yard line. Penalties backed Italy up yet again but Lewis sliced his way through the Panther defense and was eventually pushed out at the 19 of Maypearl. Anderson kept the ball on the next four plays and dove into the endzone from 6-yards out to increase the Gladiators’ lead 19-7 with 2:36 remaining in the first half. Italy’s extra point attempt failed but Maypearl still had time to respond.

And respond they did. In less than a minute, capitalizing on a short kickoff by the Gladiators. A Vaughan run incurred a late hit flag on the Gladiators to give Maypearl a first down just outside Italy’s endzone. Vaughan found room thru the middle to score his second touchdown to tighten the matchup 19-13. Aydelott’s P.A.T. kick sailed just inside the right upright to make the game 19-14.

Unable to reach the endzone, Italy’s Anderson punted and a tackle by Devonta Simmons penned the Panthers deep in their own territory. Anderson sacked Vaughan resulting in a second down and 18-yards to go for Maypearl with :59 left before halftime.

Maypearl failed to run out the clock and punted the ball back to Italy with :43 still glowing on the board. Unfortunately, Italy was unable to take advantage of their good field position at midfield and both teams went inside for a break.

At the 4:30 mark of the 3rd quarter, Aydelott booted thru his first field goal of the game to pull Maypearl within striking distance of the Gladiators, 19-17. Both defenses stiffened as both sides punted back-and-forth. Stranded inside the 20-yard line, Anderson’s second punt of the third quarter covered 34-yards and Maypearl took over at their own 48. Vaughan slipped in the backfield on first down to end the third.

With 8:18 remaining in the game, a Vaughan pass gave Maypearl first down at Italy’s 20-yard line. Italy’s defense held to force a fourth and 13-yards to go. Maypearl’s first year head coach Mike Farda called for his field goal unit and Aydelott’s kick just cleared the crossbar to give Maypearl back the lead 20-19 with 6:02 left in the contest.

Italy mishandled the ensuing kickoff and Maypearl recovered. Italy’s defense managed to keep Vaughan’s offense out of the endzone but Aydelott’s foot cleared the uprights for his third field goal on the night to give the Panthers a 23-19 cushion, 4:55 remaining.

The Gladiators had a chance with 2:44 left and the ball at midfield. However, A pass from Anderson to Jackson was stopped abruptly by Vaughan to force a fourth and 8-yards to go. Anderson’s carry to reach the first down marker fell short and Maypearl retook possession of the ball.

The Panthers picked up the first down they needed to run out the last remaining seconds and the Gladiators loose their season opener to Maypearl 23-19. A pre-season game, the loss doesn’t hurt the Gladiators as much as it will help them.

The Gladiators will now gear up for the Mart Panthers who will be coming to town Friday, September 3 to take on Italy at 7:30 p.m. Italy’s JV team will travel to Mart on Thursday, September 2 to challenge the Panthers at 6:00 p.m.

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