The IYAA Gladiators impress fans on Superbowl Saturday

Image: The IYAA B-Team Gladiators and their cheerleaders celebrate — The undefeated, undisputed, IYAA B-Team Gladiators and their cheerleaders celebrate repeating as Superbowl champions after their 33-13 win over the Scurry-Rosser Wildcats in Blooming Grove.

The IYAA B-Team Gladiators and their cheerleaders celebrate — The undefeated, undisputed, IYAA B-Team Gladiators and their cheerleaders celebrate repeating as Superbowl champions after their 33-13 win over the Scurry-Rosser Wildcats in Blooming Grove. (Barry Byers)

NESA C-Divison Superbowl Championship:

The Italy Youth Athletic Association (IYAA) C-Team Gladiators (K-2nd), head coached by Barry Byers, upset Scurry-Rosser 12-6 in overtime during the conference championship playoff round to power their way into a matchup with the undefeated Ferris Yellow Jackets. On the line, the 2010 Navarro Ellis Sports Association (NESA) C-Division Superbowl Championship and a chance for Italy’s C-Team to repeat as the NESA Superbowl Champions.

Italy started the season with eighteen inexperienced players and began 0-2 before going on a five game wining streak to finish third in their division and claim a spot in the playoffs. The dramatic conference championship win over Scurry-Rosser shocked the world and landed twenty-one tiny Gladiators, made of six kindergarteners, seven first graders and six second graders, into the big game.

On the third play of the Superbowl, the underdog Gladiators grabbed the attention of the Ferris coaching staff when Preston Rasco kept the snap from Julius Williams and eluded tacklers in route to a 55-yard touchdown run to put Italy up 6-0. The effort by Rasco marked the first time Ferris had trailed in a game after the Yellow Jackets posted an 8-0 regular season record in which they only allowed one touchdown and seven shutouts.

Bryce DeBorde dropped across the goal line for the extra point to fuel the cheers from Gladiators’ fans and give Italy an early 7-0 leads.

Ferris responded on their ensuing drive and ran in for a touchdown to pull within a point, 7-6. Italy’s defense holds back a quarterback sneak for the extra point by Ferris’s Brianna Evans. Rocklin Ginnett, Byron Davis, Ty Cash and Laveranues Green protect the Gladiators’ advantage going into the second quarter.

Italy, again, stings the Yellow Jackets when Green went the distance to give Italy a 13-6 lead. The conversion failed but the Gladiators are managing to prove their appearance in the Superbowl was no accident.

Ferris, loaded with speedy weapons, keeps pace with the Gladiators and scores one more touchdown before halftime. Italy’s defensive front foils Ferris’s extra point attempt as the Gladiators continued to lead the undefeated Yellow Jackets 13-12 at intermission.

The Gladiators are plagued by penalties and miscues in the third quarter. Ferris took advantage and Jeremy Sims sprints around the left end for a 45-yard touchdown to give the Yellow Jackets their first lead, 18-13. The extra point try fails but Ferris regains the momentum and Italy will have an uphill battle the rest of the way.

The final quarter belonged to Ferris. Sims adds another long scoring run to put Ferris on top to stay, 25-13. The Yellow Jackets defense swarmed Italy’s offense and Ferris completes their undefeated season with a 25-13 win. Ferris (10-0) claims the 2010 NESA C-Division Superbowl Championship and Italy’s C-Team Gladiators (6-3) finish as the Superbowl runner-ups. Players and cheerleaders received trophies and coaches received plaques after the game.

“Our team had talent but lacked overall experience coming into the season. After a week one loss, 26-0 against Ferris in our first game, the kids responded to the challenge and practiced hard each week. We continued to peak going into the playoffs proving hard work produces positive results. I applaud our parents for allowing me to do what needed to be done. After surviving our hard-hitting cleat camp, next season’s squad will have the experience they need to finish strong.” — Barry Byers

NESA B-Divison Superbowl Championship:

The IYAA B-Team Gladiators (3rd & 4th), head coached by Gary Wood, entered their Superbowl game on Saturday as the 2010 undefeated B-Division Champions with a 7-0 record. Italy’s B-team then became the 2010 NESA B-Division Conference Champions after shutting out the Palmer Bulldogs 12-0 in the playoff round, improving their record to 8-0.

The Scurry-Rosser Wildcats held back the Ferris Yellow Jackets 20-14 to win their conference championship game and setup up the one seed versus two seed matchup between Italy and Scurry-Rosser in the 2010 NESA Superbowl Championship hosted by Rice in Blooming Grove.

The games first big play comes on Italy’s first possession when Taron Smith dances thru Scurry’s defense and down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run. Smith carries in the extra point as well to give the Gladiators a 7-0 edge.

After the kickoff, and penned near their own goal line, a Wildcat runner is bottled up by several Gladiator defenders while Smith strips the ball and scoops it and scores from 2-yards out. The defensive touchdown gives Italy a quick 13-0 cushion with over 6:00 left in the opening quarter. The extra point try is unsuccessful.

In the second quarter, Scurry responds and scores to keep pace with Italy, making the score 13-7. Italy’s next possession stalls and with the Wildcats just a whisker from the Gladiators’ endzone, cornerback Miguel Martinez dislodges a Scurry runner from the ball, which is recovered by Ryder Itson, to switch control of the ball back to the Gladiators, 1:20 left before halftime.

Smith quickly connects with Itson who makes an athletic, one-handed catch, and runs for thirty of the 40-yards Italy gains on the play. Smith then runs down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. Italy is unable to put in the extra point but takes a 19-7 lead, 0:27 left.

However, Scurry manages a long touchdown run of their own to squeeze in a touchdown just before the break, keeping the games final outcome in doubt, 20-13 at intermission.

Both sides jab at each other for most of the third before Itson intercepts a Scurry pass and outruns the Wildcats into the endzone. Smith passes to tightend Ja’Sean Brooks who makes the 2-point conversion catch and the Gladiators are back in charge, 27-13 with 1:00 remaining in the quarter.

At the 7:09 mark of the fourth, Scurry fumbles again and Smith picks the ball up off the grass and heads for the endzone. Harassed by a Wildcat who was giving chase, Smith fumbles on the play as well but manages to recover the ball at Scurry’s 5-yard line.

Back on offense, Smith drops way back and then rolls left. Avoiding Wildcat defenders, Smith launches a beautiful spiral into the hands of Itson who breaks a tackle at the goal line for Itson’s second touchdown of the game. The extra point try was denied by the Wildcats’ defense but the touchdown gives Italy a 33-13 lead with 6:01 remaining in the Superbowl.

Scurry is unable to rally late and Italy finishes their season as the undefeated, undisputed, back-to-back, 2010 NESA B-Division Superbowl Champions, posting a 9-0 season record. Italy’s B-Team was undefeated 2009 NESA Superbowl Champions last season under head coach Ken Norwood. Players and cheerleaders received trophies and coaches received plaques after the game.

Coach Wood also guided the 2009 IYAA C-team during their undefeated, unscored on, superbowl championship run and has a 17-0 record over the past two seasons as an IYAA head coach, 25-1 over the past three seasons.

NESA A-Divison Superbowl Championship:

In the NESA leagues A-division, the Scurry-Rosser Wildcats, head coached by Vontayn Williams, held on for a 26-20 win over the Palmer Bulldogs to become the undefeated 2010 NESA A-Division Superbowl Champions.

Congratulations to each IYAA C-Team, B-Team and A-Team (5th & 6th) player, their cheerleaders and coaches and to their fans for another exciting season of IYAA Football! The entire IYAA family celebrated the amazing season with their Bonfire Party on Saturday as well. Hotdogs, snacks, and music provided by DJ Bryant Cockran, entertained guests as well as cheers performed by the IYAA cheerleaders.

Players participating in the Superbowls received shirts printed by Game On Athletics in Italy. Coach Wood announced Taron Smith and Ryder Itson as the IYAAs 2010 B-Division Superbowl Co-MVPs. The cheerleaders received trophies along with the A-team players. Good luck to our 6th graders who will be displaying their skills at the next level next season. The glowing bonfire kept the party bright as both kids and adults danced the night away.

Special thanks to Italy ISD, the City of Italy and Mayor Frank Jackson, Italy Neotribune, NESA, Trinity Mission, Bryant Cockran, our IYAA volunteers and parents and to our sponsors, including: Haight Construction, Citizens National Bank of Italy and Monolithic Constructors, Inc.

The 2010 IYAA B-Team Roster:
Head Coach: Gary Wood
Assistant Coaches: Sean Brooks, Addison Alexander, Mailen Davis, Aaron Itson

• Undefeated, back-to-back, B-division champions (7-0)
• Undefeated, back-to-back, B-division conference champions (8-0)
• Undefeated, back-to-back, B-division Superbowl champions (9-0)

  • 4 – Jaylon Davis
  • 6 – Ryder Itson
  • 7 – Francisco Lopez
  • 8 – Jacob Wiser
  • 9 – Addison Alexander
  • 10 – Taron Smith
  • 11 – Ja’Sean Brooks
  • 12 – Michael Gonzalez
  • 21 – Zorian Burley
  • 24 – Gage Wafer
  • 26 – Ricky Pendleton
  • 28 – Garrett Cash
  • 29 – Christian Cole
  • 30 – Miguel Martinez
  • 31 – Drew Celis
  • 33 – C.C. Jones
  • 40 – Tyvon Gates
  • 56 – Donald Hayes
  • 79 – Brennon Sigler
  • 98 – Alex Garcia

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Michele Cash – TLC Photography

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