Italy — With head coach, Craig Bales, leading the charge and second-year defensive coordinator Jeff Richters building on the foundation he established last season, the Italy Gladiators’ varsity and JV football teams began 2-a-day workouts on Monday with plenty of passion.
Coaches Josh Ward and Aidan Callahan have returned as well, while recently hired Randy Parks will oversee the offensive and defensive lines. Larry Mayberry, Sr. has been added to the staff and will assist with the linemen also. Coach Mayberry has two sons playing for the Gladiators, Larry Mayberry, Jr., a returning all-district tackle and Darol Mayberry who is a sophomore on the JV squad. Kelton Bales, the son of Coach Bales, has joined the program as a freshman.
Italy High School’s newly hired principal, Lee Joffre, has been down to a couple of practices to show his support for the team while Mr. Richard Cook, Italy High School’s 2010-2011 ‘Fan of the Year,’ has been monitoring closely from the shade of the bleachers. Other Gladiator alumni have been looking on as well such as: Heath Clemons, John Isaac, Jr., Lee Hamilton and Jasenio Anderson.
Anderson has been evaluating the progress of his replacement at quarterback, Jase Holden. Holden, is transitioning from wide receiver and is showing much promise in his first few practices. Athletic and in great shape, Holden is smart and getting more comfortable with his receiving corp on every pass. Six-foot-six Devonta Simmons returns from last year’s team and will likely be a go-to target for Holden in the passing game.
Unlike Anderson, who was the focus of Italy’s offense the past two seasons, Holden will have a stable of talented running backs to help chew up the turf on Friday nights, including: Chase Hamilton, Raheem Walker, Ethan Saxon and Kyle Jackson.
With all that said, Italy’s offensive line may prove to be the key ingredient to Italy’s overall success. Brandon Souder, at center, joins Larry Mayberry, Jr., Adrian Reed, Zack Boykin and Omar Estrada in the task of keeping their ‘learning on the fly’ quarterback protected while opening holes for the backfield.
And if it’s defense that wins championships there are certainly no worries within the barbwire capped fences surrounding Italy’s practice field. Coach Richters will be relying on Isaac Medrano and/or Hank Seabolt to anchor the middle of Italy’s defensive line while backers, Saxon, Jackson, Souder and Walker are chomping at the bit to scar up their shiny gold helmets. Now two years into the system, Italy’s defenders are reacting quicker and more confidently.
With players more comfortable in their roles and with their play calls, team chemistry is high. Sure it’s hot and the ground is hard, but the players have not given in to that fact one bit. The eyes of the Gladiators are on the prize, not the temperature gauge. The Gladiators will have one more padless practice Today and then go to full pads on Friday, have the weekend off, then full pads all next week.
Gladiator Training School, “Graduate with honor.”