1940 Gladiators – A Winning Tradition #6

It has been 70 years since the 1940 Italy Gladiators were undefeated and unscored on. Bill Bryant was a graduate of Italy High School and the Sports Editor for the Italy News Herald. The following is his sixth article of the season.

Gladiators Continue Winning Streak at Blooming Grove

Subdue Strong Opponent By Score 20 To 0

Italy High’s Gladiators subdued a surprisingly stubborn pack of Blooming Grove Lions 20 to 0, at Lion Field last Friday afternoon in the conference lid-blaster for each club to go to the head of the circuit standings.

Two hundred and fifty persons sitting in a weather setting far more suitable for baseball than the pigskin sport, saw the Gladiators turn in an off-and-on exhibition of offensive strength and their usual tight defensive play.

Wild Bill Howell, the tiny 142 pound running and passing star, was the first of the Gladiators to bring the crowd to its feet. The game rocked along with few thrills until late in the first period when Howell, who had personally accounted for ten of the twenty – two touchdowns scored by the Warriors prior to this game cut through the line and ran for the initial score of the contest.

Howell traveled 78-yards on this jaunt, the longest run made by either side during the entire game, and the odd thing about it is that everyone on the Blooming Grove team had at least one shot at the little speedster but still didn’t get him. To re-account the play, he slashed off right tackle, hit over to the west side line, evaded a number of would-be tacklers, and without another break in his stride raced over untouched to complete the sensational scoring maneuver. But Billy’s attempted extra point boot was wide to the left.

It wasn’t until two minutes before the close of the first half that the scorekeeper had to add any more numbers to the big “6” that stood out so prominently beside Italy’s name on the tally-sheet. Howell then took the ball on a reverse play from Rod Williams, first fumbled a moment, picked up the ball and found an open space over the middle. Safely by the line, he cut to the east side line to elude the halfbacks, then swerved back into the field of play, About the line 25, Billy shook his hips at McClure, the only player barring his path to pay territory, and galloped over for a touchdown. This time his booming place-kick was squarely between the uprights.

An intercepted pass by Cecil Couch paved the way for the third and final Warrior counter. Couch leaped high to snag “Dootch” Sheppard’s shot and stormed through a covey of Lions to the Blooming Grove 30 before he was banged to earth. Howell skirted right end for nine and Winston Riddle added two at center to make it first down on the 19. Howell was stopped cold by Shaw at right end and Williams managed to get only yard at guard. Howell then stepped back, flipped a pass to Riddle in the right flat, and he was wide open on the 1-yard line to step over for an easy touchdown. Howell accounted for the extra point.

That was all the scoring, but there were point-making opportunities muffed. Blooming Grove started on the march from the opening kickoff and it looked for a few minutes like they were going to score. After the Gladiators failed to make enough yardage to justify a first down after taking the kickoff, Howell punted out for the Lion 31-yard line.

Sheppard tore through right tackle for seven and McClure picked up a firster on his own 42 through the middle. Sheppard fumbled going into the line, but Shaw recovered directly on the mid-field stripe for a seven-step gain. McClure knifed off tackle for six before Sheppard faked a pass, tucked the ball under his arm and lit out around right end. He dodged and twisted down to the Warrior 28-yard line for another first down at that point. But the drive bogged down there when three running plays gained only six yards, and the ball went over to the Gladiators on downs. It was only one play later that Howell broke loose to score Italy’s first touchdown.

Penalties hurt the chances of the Gladiators. On several occasions they drove within the shadows of the double stripe, only to be set back by one or more penalties to ruin their march goal-ward. The Warriors drew four penalties for a loss of 30 yards, while Blooming Grove was assessed two penalties for a loss of 14 yards.

With everyone who took part turning a great brand of ball, both offensively and defensively, it’s pretty hard to single out any one or two individuals who were outstanding. But it wouldn’t be fair to such lads as Lester Fuston, Leonard Rienzi, Alton Matthews, Vasco Baucom, Winston Riddle, Bill Howell and Rod Williams not to mention that they turned in great performances. It would also be wrong to overlook the great work done by Shaw, an end; Gillen, the great little back (he weighs only 120 pounds stripped); Sheppard, at half, and Furra, at tackle for the Lions. But the top-ranking performance of the day has to be attributed to Shaw of the other side. He was simply all over the field all afternoon and made numerous tackles for the losers.