Gladiators dominate Valley Mills during scrimmage on Saturday

Image: Gladiator, Omar Estrada pops teammate Larry Mayberry, Jr.(99) during tackling drills before the start of the scrimmage between Italy and Valley Mills.

Gladiator, Omar Estrada pops teammate Larry Mayberry, Jr.(99) during tackling drills before the start of the scrimmage between Italy and Valley Mills. (Barry Byers)

Italy, Texas — After two weeks of teammate versus teammate, the Italy Gladiators welcomed the opportunity to test their sharpened skills against an opponent in a different jersey as they hosted the Valley Mills Eagles at a damp Willis Field on Saturday. The Eagles finished the 2010-2011 season with a 9-2 record after reaching the regional round of the playoffs and, therefore, presented Italy with a chance to see how they might fair against such an accomplished foe.

With the Gladiators on offense first and starting at their own thirty, It took only two plays for Italy to realize their potential for the 2011-2012 season. Quarterback, Jase Holden, handed the ball off to fullback, Kyle Jackson, who zipped passed the blocks of left tackle Omar Estrada and left guard Kevin Roldan to race 68-yards for Italy’s first score of the contest.

Three plays later, the Gladiators managed their second score after a pass from, Holden, who stood safely behind his linemen, Larry Mayberry, Jr., Adrian Reed, Brandon Souder, Roldan and Estrada, was hauled in by receiver, Devonta Simmons. Simmons made a running leap to snag the pigskin, broke a tackle upon landing and then charged downfield for the 50-yard touchdown, 2-0 Italy. Holden commented after the scrimmage in reference to the effort from his offensive line, “The only time I was touched was when I picked up a dropped snap and ran with it. My line did a great job.”

The Eagles tried to answer on their first offensive possession but the methodical drive eventually came to an end near Italy’s 30-yard line, much to the delight of Italy’s defensive coordinator Jeff Richters, who applauded the Gladiator defense for keeping Valley Mills out of the endzone. The effort allowed Italy to begin their second offensive set, again from their own 30-yard line.

Bursts by running backs Chase Hamilton, Raheem Walker and Jackson helped keep the drive moving but the Eagles’ defense dug in near their red zone and managed to foil Italy’s hopes for a third score.

With the Gladiators returning to defense, Ethan Saxon, Tony Wooldridge, Hayden Woods, Isaac Medrano, Hamilton, Walker and the rest of Richters’ wrecking crew kept the Eagles in check as Italy continued to lead, 2-0.

With both sides mixing in JV players with varsity players, Italy’s Walker escaped for a 35-yard scoring run to put the Gladiators up, 3-0. Valley Mills struggled offensively the rest of the way and Estrada made the final tackle in the Eagles backfield to end the scrimmage.

Italy’s JV team had a successful outing as well. The offense consistently moved the ball with quarterback Eric Carson at the helm. Offensive linemen Bailey Walton, Zain Byers, Hank Seabolt, Kelton Bales and Roldan improved their execution with every snap. Trevon Robertson accounted for Italy’s biggest plays via the passing game while tailback, Justin Wood grounded out the bulk of rushing yards.

“Actually, I was very impressed with our JV squad. I thought they performed very well,” stated former Gladiator standout Clay Major afterwards.

Additional highlights were turned in by Roldan who made a tackle from his nose guard position and then stripped the ball from the back for a turnover. Souder covered a fumble in the Eagles backfield as well. Trevon Robertson had an outstanding day as receiver for both the JV and varsity rotations. Carson, was accurate with his aim as JV quarterback and was all over the field defensively. Mayberry was dominant at right tackle for the varsity while his younger brother, Darol Mayberry, played aggressively on defense for Italy’s JV. Hamilton, was a workhorse on both sides of the ball while, Jackson repeatedly rocketed thru the Valley Mills defense.

Gladiator head coach Craig Bales challenged his team to improve in some areas but overall he was proud of their performance. “We’re going to be good. How good, will be up to each of you and how hard we continue to practice,” stated, Bales, as he addressed his team at midfield.

The Gladiators’ next test will be a scrimmage against the TAPPS Division II District 2 Waco Reicher Cougars on Friday, August 19, starting at 6:00 p.m. in Italy at Willis Field. Friday night will also be “White Towel Night.” Show your team spirit by donating a white towel upon admission into the game. A towel is not mandatory and there will be no charge for admission, however, Gladiator head coach, Craig Bales, hopes all fans will contribute to the cause.

It feels good to be a Gladiator.