1940 Gladiators – A Winning Tradition #14

It has been 70 years since the 1940 Italy Gladiators were undefeated and unscored on. This article appeared in the Corsicana Sun.

Italy Gladiators Won District 21-B Championship vs. Mildred

Billie Howell Led Visitors Parade With Two Markers

Italy High Gladiators wrote football history on Tiger Field Friday afternoon by taking advantage of breaks and playing smart football winning 18-0 over a fighting Mildred Eagle crew that deserved a better fate. With this win, Italy annexed the District 21-B championship as the successor of the Kerens Bobcats and the right to compete in bi-district play. Another accomplishment was the concluding of a 10-game schedule without the goal line being crossed. This game brought Italy’s total to 337 points to none for the opposition.

The visitors were led by Billie Howell, a speedster with brains, elusiveness and timing. He scored the two touchdowns in the second period that decided the contest and played well the remaining time he was in the melee.

Benefield is Star

The individual high performance of the afternoon goes to Benefield, Mildred end, who rose to defensive and offensive heights seldom seen in high school circles, and he can rest assured he will never excel his performance for the afternoon. Grabbing passes, spilling the opposition for frequent losses and refusing to be taken out of plays, this youngster was the source of trouble to the Ellis countians all the afternoon.

And it might be added to the credit of the Eagles, they did not quit trying and were putting out their best efforts even when behind and knowing as the clock ticked away the waning minutes their hopes for a win were gone.

Italy had a well-rounded line and backfield.

Sirman, guard; Treadwell, tackle and Garland, halfback stood out for the Eagles. Garland was an excellent gainer.

Four Mildred passes were intercepted by the Ellis countians, two of them resulting in scores.

Mildred penetrated the 20-yard zone on three occasions and out-gained the winners.

Eagles Led at Period

Mildred had the better of the melee in the first period, despite a couple of poor punts. Gaines ripped off 12 yards at left end to put the ball on the Italy 17-yard stripe, but Italy braced and gained the ball on her 15. Mildred later regained the ball on Italy’s 45 but could not advance successfully. Benefield spilled Howell for a 14-yard loss and Italy had the ball on her 21-yard line as the period ended.

Italy gained the ball on the Mildred 33 yard zone after a punt had traveled only 4 yards against the wind. Howell ripped 11 and then 3 and 5 yards. Williams rushed to the Mildred 7 and Riddle gained four yards in three plunges. Howell out back over left tackle for 2 and the touchdown. Pritchett broke through to block the attempted placement for extra point. Score: Italy 6 Mildred 0.

Mildred gained possession of the ball on her own 33. Garland ran 14 and then 6 yards to open a drive that finally went into the Italy territory, but the elusive Howell intercepted the pass on the Italy 35, waited for interference, emerged into the open and sped away unmolested to a 65-yard touchdown jaunt. The placement was blocked. Score: Italy 12 Mildred 0.

The rival pep squads and the Italy band performed on the playing field during the intermission.

Mildred Threat

Early in the third period, Italy had the ball on her own 30. A short time later Treadwell, Mildred tackle, intercepted a pass on the Italy 30. A passing and running attack looked like a cinch to result in a score. The Eagles ran and passed to the Italy 6. Garland hit left tackle for 3 and Gaines picked up a yard to the Italy 2-yard line. Wilcox failed to gain on a long run at left end. Then a pass was tossed and Fullback Williams intercepted it and sped for 98 yards for the third and final count of the game. The attempted pass for extra point failed. Score: Italy 18 Mildred 0.

Howell threatened, however, by unreeling 20 yards to the Mildred 20 as the period ended.

Mildred declined a penalty early in the fourth and gained the ball on the Italy 24, but was unable to turn the chance into a score. Mildred was scrapping as hard as ever and Benefield recovered a fumble on the Italy 31, but the game ended a few plays later.

The great Italy Gladiators were the best in the pinches, and although out-gained by the Mildred Eagles, kept unsullied their undefeated, untied and unscored on record. Mildred was unable to cash in when it was needed the most. A break gave Italy the chance for the first score when a poor punt into the wind gave the Ellis countians the ball about the Mildred 33 yard stripe. Then pass interceptions and long jaunts by Italy backs accounted for the other two tallies. Mildred played a bang-up game and deserves a lot of credit. The Eagles did not fold up when the breaks went against them. One fine club had to lose Friday and it fell to the lot of Mildred. Billie Howell, the widely heralded quarterback of the Gladiators is some speedster and broken field runner. He is cool, waits for his interference, and once in the open, is gone like a shot to pay dirt. Some college could use this lad, for he can carry the mail.