Gladiators celebrate Senior Night with 39-22 win over Centerville

Image: Seniors take their final steps as Gladiator football players — Eleven strong: De’Andre Sephus(20), Heath Clemons(2), Eddie Garcia(8), Jacob Lopez(52), Colton Campbell(3), Kyle Wilkins(7), Jasenio Anderson(11), Ethan Simon(50), Tavarus Griffin(85), Bobby Wilson(64) and De’Andre Rettig(60).

Seniors take their final steps as Gladiator football players — Eleven strong: De’Andre Sephus(20), Heath Clemons(2), Eddie Garcia(8), Jacob Lopez(52), Colton Campbell(3), Kyle Wilkins(7), Jasenio Anderson(11), Ethan Simon(50), Tavarus Griffin(85), Bobby Wilson(64) and De’Andre Rettig(60). (Barry Byers)

ITALY — It was Senior Night in Italy as the Gladiators (5-5, 2,3) hoped to conclude their season with a win over the Centerville Tigers. Italy’s football seniors including Jasenio Anderson, Heath Clemons, Colton Campbell, Eddie Garcia, Tavarus Griffin, Jacob Lopez, De’Andre Rettig, De’Andre Sephus, Ethan Simon, Kyle Wilkins and Bobby Wilson were recognized before the game along with their families.

The Tigers (2-8, 2,3) entered Willis Field with confidence coming off a 50-13 win over the Blooming Grove Lions. The Gladiators were playing their final home game of the season in front off packed bleachers as well as striving to finish the season strong with a .500 record.

Two early carries by Anderson gives Italy a first down at Centerville’s 40-yard line. Tackled for a 5-yard loss and unable to gain any ground, Italy punts the ball over to the tigers. Anderson’s towering kick travels 28-yards to Centerville’s eighteen. Gladiators’ defensive tackle Larry Mayberry makes a quick tackle and Centerville has a second down and nine. Centerville tries to run wide right but Kyle Jackson keeps the Tigers caged while Simon and Anderson swoop in for the tackle.

On third down, Centerville’s runner starts right and then cuts back toward the middle where Brandon Souder makes the tackle to force a Tigers’ punt, 8:48 left in the first quarter. Centerville downs the kick at Italy’s 45-yard line. Jamal Jalarnce Lewis carries for 4-yards to the forty-nine. Lewis carries again to the 41-yard line for a first down. After a loss in the backfield, a catch and run by Clemons gives Italy a third down and three at the Centerville 34-yard line. Anderson passes to Devonta Simmons for the first down at the Centerville 31-yard line, 6:49 left in the opening quarter.

Lewis gains 4-yards to the Tiger twenty-seven. Wilkins reaches the twent-two but a holding call against the Gladiators spots the ball at the 27-yard line. Anderson hands the ball off to Wilkins again and Italy has a first down at the Tigers’ 14-yard line at the 5:40 mark of the first.

Anderson keeps for four more yards and Italy has a second and six at the 10-yard line. Lewis runs right up the center of Centerville’s defense to put the Gladiators on the board first, 6-0. With Simon snapping and Jase Holden, holding, Anderson’s point after kick counts and Italy leads 7-0, 4:48 still to play in the first.

Centerville fair catches Anderson’s kickoff at their own 35-yard line. After tackles by Clemons and Sephus make it appear Italy will hold the Tigers, Centerville breaks a 28-yard run to Italy’s 29-yard line where Holden makes the touchdown saving tackle. A pass attempt into the endzone goes thru the receiver’s hands, second and ten.

The Tigers complete their next pass attempt for a first down at Italy’s 19-yard line. Simon holds the Tiger runner to 3-yards, second and seven. A short pass results in a third and four after Holden and Kyle Jackson combine for the stop at the Gladiators’ 14-yard line. Centerville fumbles their center-to-quarterback exchange but recovers, fourth and four with 1:03 still showing.

Italy’s Simon and Wilson bring down Centerville’s quarterback short of the marker and Italy takes over on downs at their own 13-yard line with 0:58 remaining. Anderson keeps for 13-yards to the twenty-six. A reverse to Clemons gains nine more, second and one for the Gladiators at their 35-yard line. Clemons tests the middle but Centerville makes the grade, leaving Italy with a third and one to end the quarter.

A screen pass to Wilkins looked promising but Wilkins was immediately called down when the referee insisted his knee touched the ground. Italy lost yards on the play, but on fourth down, a darting pass from Anderson to Holden picked up the first down at Italy’s 49-yard line.

Lewis carries for 5-yards to the forty-six of Centerville. A long run by Anderson also draws a clipping call against the Gladiators. The ball is spotted back at Italy’s 40-yard line for a third and seventeen, 9:30 left to play in the first half.

Trying to pass for the first down, Anderson is forced to throw the ball away and Italy punts back to the Tigers. Anderson’s punt is fielded at the 28-yard line where Sephus knocks the stripes off of Centerville’s return man but the Tiger clutches on to the ball. Three plays later, Simon hammers the Tiger tailback to bring up fourth and inches at the 37-yard line. The Tiger quarterback sneaks for the first down to give Centerville a first down at their own 39-yard line.

Jackson makes the tackle for a five-yard loss but a horse-collar call against Jackson gives Centerville an automatic first down at Italy’s 45-yard line with 6:42 left in the half. The Tigers run right but get walled off by Jackson and Sephus makes the tackle, second and eleven. The Tigers bobble the snap and Omar Estrada brings down the hapless quarterback for third and eleven. Centerville claws their way out of their predicament and eventually reach Italy’s 34-yard line.

Estrada makes another tackle to give the Tigers a second and eleven at Italy’s thirty-three with 4:34 to play before halftime. The Gladiators get flagged for pass interference on the next play and Centerville is within striking distance at Italy’s 15-yard line.

Simon applies another big hit to Centerville’s tailback but the Tigers hang in there and complete a pass down to the 6-yard line. The Tigers run in from there to make the game 7-6 with 2:25 remaining in the half. The Tigers try for 2-points but throw the ball away out of the back of the endzone. The score remains 7-6 as Centerville kicks off.

Souder, a lineman, fields the kickoff for the Gladiators and records a 1-yard kick return. “I’m just glad he caught the ball,” exclaimed Souder’s father, Mark Souder. Anderson pitches to Clemons who gains 2-yards. Anderson then keeps the ball and runs to the 35-yard line of Centerville. Anderson aims for Simmons in the endzone but the pair are unable to connect. Clemons makes the grab for 9-yards at the Tiger thirty-two, 0:46 left before the break.

Anderson carries to the 25-yard line where he is knocked out-of-bounds, stopping the clock with 0:39 remaining. Anderson passes over the top of Centerville’s safety and Holden makes the leaping grab at the goal line to extend Italy’s lead 13-6. Anderson’s point after kick is good and Italy leads 14-6. On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson delivers another big Gladiator hit to a Tiger returner to end the first half.

The Pride of Italy High School, the award winning 2010-2011 Italy Gladiator Regiment Band, honored Italy’s seniors with a musical trip down memory lane and performed selections from their previous five marching shows.

With band director Jesus Perez and his drum major Jessica Hernandez and assistant drum major Drenda Burk leading the way, the IHS Band was recently awarded it’s third straight 1st division rating in the UIL marching competition. The IHS Band has also earned two straight sweepstakes as a result of receiving first division ratings in their concert competitions and strive for their third straight sweepstakes in the spring. In the four years Perez has been with Italy ISD, the band program has grown from 30 members to 80 members.

The senior band members recognized during halftime were: color guard captain for her second consecutive year Nikki Brashear, baritonist Kaitlan Davidson, head drum major for her second consecutive year and alto saxaphonist Jessica Hernandez, clarinetist Maria Luna, lead trumpeter Michael “Taz” Martinez, trumpeter Marisela Perez and cymbalist Melissa Smithey.

The Gladiators received the second half kickoff and big runs by Jackson and Anderson and Wilkins setup up a 10-yard touchdown scamper by Anderson to increase Italy’s lead 20-6. The point after kick just missed and the score remains 20-6 at the 5:46 mark of the third quarter. After Centerville received the Anderson Kickoff, the Tigers botched a pitch play and Jackson recovered for the Gladiators at the enemies 30-yard line.

Again on offense, a downfield block by Simmons helps Anderson reach the 21-yard line after a run around the left end. Anderson runs over everybody to reach the endzone on the next play. The 21-yard touchdown run by Anderson makes the score 26-6. The Gladiators are unable to convert a pass attempt for 2-points and the score remains 26-6 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

Centerville answers with a 65-yard drive to score before the end of the third. A 1-yard touchdown run and a completed pass for the 2-point conversion makes the score 26-14, 0:28 remain with Italy still in control.

Sephus is brought down at Italy’s 6-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. Anderson, quickly, gets Italy out of the hole with a running burst to the 34-yard line to end the third quarter action. Anderson carries to the 47-yard line followed by Jackson who reaches the Centerville 47-yard line. Jackson gets the call again and sprints 46-yards before being horse-collared down near Centerville’s goal line. The penalty scoots the ball an inch closer to the stripe. Clemons replaces Anderson at quarterback and dives across for the touchdown. Italy leads 32-14 with 11:00 remaining in the game.

Centerville mounts a drive on their next possession but a 42-yard interception return by Anderson gives Italy a first down at Centerville’s 8-yard line, 8:42 remaining in Italy’s season. Two plays later, Anderson heads left and pitches to Wilkins who scores the 8-yard touchdown and gives Italy a 38-14 advantage. Anderson kicks thru his last point after attempt as a Gladiator. And with the score 39-14 with 7:50 remaining, Italy’s fans begin the celebration.

Centerville fair catches Anderson’s kickoff at their forty-four. The Tigers pick up 4-yards before being brought down by Italy’s Corrin Frazier. After eventually getting a first down, the Tigers keep at it and reach Italy’s 28-yard line with 5:50 left. Rettig and Anderson combine for the stop to leave the Tigers with second and seven. Holden almost intercepts a pass attempt by the Tigers. On third down, the Tigers run a reverse to Italy’s 14-yard line and get the first down. Frazier stuffs Centerville’s next reverse run, second and long with 4:10 showing.

A Tiger run and fumble is recovered by Centerville at the 1-yard line. Rettig, Simon and Anderson combine for the stop on the following play. On second and goal, the Tiger runner reaches over for the score. Centerville’s quarterback keeps for the 2-point conversion and the Tigers show no quit, 39-22 with 2:48 remaining.

Italy starts from their 31-yard line. Wilkins carries for 3-yards to the thirty-four. Eddie Garcia runs in the play to Anderson. Wilkins follows Souder and Garcia to the forty-six, 1:53 still to play. Italy’s head coach Craig Bales sticks with Wilkins in the games final seconds to run out the clock. Wilkins follows Jacob Lopez, Simon, and Wilson thru the middle to Italy’s 47-yard line. Anderson takes a knee with 0:18 left to end the game, the season and high school careers of eleven talented Gladiator seniors.

No matter how you look at this season it has been one of remarkable achievement for Gladiator Nation. Hit early with injuries this year and having to learn a new defensive system under first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Richters, it seemed the Gladiators were often fighting an uphill battle. Through it all, this team fought tooth and nail to be competitive. Yes, there have been some tough losses. But there have also been some amazing moments. Nothing can erase the magic of this season for the Gladiators.

“I’m proud of the team for ending their season with a win. They overcame some tough calls early, kept their focus and finished like Gladiators,” stated Italy’s head coach Craig Bales, after the game.

Italy School Song:
Oh, Italy High, Dear Italy High
The years may come, the years may go
We’re true to you; we can’t deny
Old gold and white we love you so.

Go Gladiators!