After Chase Hamilton ran 44-yards to score a touchdown on Italy’s first offensive play of the game, it seemed as though the JV Gladiators were about to chalk up another win. Justin Wood fell across the goal line for the 2-point conversion and the home team was off to a good start, 8-0 over Palmer in only twenty-four seconds.
However, Palmer almost duplicated the effort by Hamilton but a touchdown saving tackle by Cody Medrano delayed the Bulldogs momentarily. Despite a sack by Italy’s Adrian Reed, Palmer scored with 5:36 left in the first quarter and ran in for the 2-point conversion to tie the contest 8-8.
Italy’s next drive stalled in Bulldog territory and Palmer took over at their own 41-yard line. A flat pass by the Bulldogs was stopped cold by cornerback Eric Carson for a 5-yard loss but Palmer’s next pass play covered 19-yards for a first down at Italy’s 35-yard line.
Two first down carries later and Palmer was in scoring position but a holding penalty and a personal foul call backed the Bulldogs to Italy’s 37-yard line. A Bulldog run to the 29 ended the opening quarter.
Early in the second quarter, a near interception by Carson off a deflected pass by Zackery Boykin would have stolen Palmer’s momentum. The Bulldogs are awarded a pass interference call on the next play followed by a short run to give Palmer second down and 7-yards to go from Italy’s 15-yard line. The Bulldogs run it in from there, and after the 2-point conversion, take a 16-8 lead, 8:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Italy’s drive stalls and the Bulldogs take over at the 50-yard line. Reed, Boykin and a combo tackle by Hamilton and Trevon Robertson slow Palmer’s progression. On fourth down and 5-yards to go, Justin Wood meets the Palmer quarterback in the hole allowing the JV Gladiators to take over at their own 26.
The home team continues their struggles on offense, after their first possession, and a fumble is recovered back at the 7-yard line by the Bulldogs defense. Two plays later, Palmer scores and adds the conversion to take a commanding 24-8 advantage with just 0:52 left in the half.
After a Wood’s kickoff return to midfield, Tony Wooldridge passes to Paul Harris good for 24-yards down to Palmer’s 27-yard line. Italy’s head coach Stephen Coleman takes a timeout with 0:29 showing on the clock. Wooldridge gets sacked back to the 38 but completes a pass to Hamilton on the next play to the 21-yard line. Out of timeouts, Italy’s offensive unit hustles to lineup on the ball but the hurried snap rolls back to Wooldridge where the Bulldogs eventually recover to end the first half.
Hamilton and Wood go head hunting on the second half kickoff and Palmer starts at their own 35-yard line. A pass interference call gives the Bulldogs first and ten at Italy’s 35-yard line. Wood & Company sniff out a Bulldog reverse try. A false start penalty gives Palmer a 3rd and 13-yards to go with 7:50 left in the third quarter. Italy’s defense holds on the next play and the JV Gladiators force the Bulldogs to punt with 6:48 left in the third.
From their own 14-yard line, Italy’s offense is unable to distance themselves from the shadows of their own endzone. A loss of yards on a running play and a false start penalty back Italy to their own 2-yard line. Wooldridge tries a quick pass to Wood at the slot receiver but Palmer makes a hard tackle to pen Italy just inches from their goal line. Wooldridge tries a pass to the opposite side of the field to Harris but the Bulldogs bat it down.
Wooldridge punts with his back to the goal post and the Palmer punt returner reverses his field and finds a lane leading all the way back for a special teams’ touchdown. The conversion is successful and the Bulldogs lead 30-8. The conversion pass was tipped incomplete with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
Italy’s Robertson returns the Palmer kickoff to the 35-yard line of the JV Gladiators. Four plays later, Hamilton runs for the first down and gets the 1-yard needed by a neck with 2:51 still in the third. After crossing midfield, a pass from Wooldridge to Carson gives Italy a first down near Palmer’s 20-yard line.
As the game moves into the fourth quarter, Wooldridge eventually passes to Harris who makes the catch at the 5-yard line. A 2-yard carry and a 3-yard touchdown run by Wooldridge makes the score 30-14. Wooldridge dives inside the pylon for the conversion to close the gap 30-16, 8:24 left in the game.
Palmer runs the ensuing kickoff all the way back for a touchdown despite a nice effort by Hamilton to make a diving tackle at the goal line. A penalty on Palmer spots the ball back near midfield as Hamilton exits with cramps. With 6:25 remaining, the Bulldogs ran in for a touchdown to make the score 36-16. The conversion failed.
Wood runs one in for the JV Gladiators with 5:14 still to go to make the score 36-22. Wooldridge added the conversion to make the score 36-24. Unfortunately, there were no last second heroics by the JV Gladiators this week as Palmer proved spoiler, adding one more score and conversion to dominate the matchup 44-24.
Italy will get a chance to regroup and take their frustrations out on the Blooming Grove Lions on Thursday, October 7, starting at 6:30 p.m. The Italy Junior High team will challenge the Lions before hand starting at 5:00 p.m., both games will be in Italy.