IYAA Gladiators give their all in playoff round, A-Team advances to Superbowl

Image: IYAA C-team coach Mark Souder, Jr., tells a top secret play to his backfield during their playoff game against Blooming Grove.

IYAA C-team coach Mark Souder, Jr., tells a top secret play to his backfield during their playoff game against Blooming Grove. (Barry Byers)

Hubbard — Both the IYAA C-team (K-2nd) and the A-team (5th-6th) made the NEH playoffs this season and traveled to Hubbard Saturday for the playoff round. The C-team Gladiators challenged Blooming Grove starting at 9:00 a.m. and took a quick 7-0 lead in the opening quarter after a cut back run by John Hall set the pace for the game.

Blooming Grove finally reached the end zone midway thru the third-quarter but were unsuccessful on their point after run, thanks to nose guard Bryce Ballard, allowing Italy to cling to a 7-6 advantage going into the final quarter.

With under 1:00 minute to play, a long run by Blooming Grove was stopped short of the end zone with a touchdown saving tackle by Hall. A false start penalty against Blooming Grove backed the Lions to the 6-yard to bring up 2nd and goal. On the next play, however, the Lions got the edge and cut back across the goal line for the go ahead score. The conversion failed but the Lions had one foot in the door of the Superbowl, leading 12-7 with :41 seconds remaining.

After the kickoff, Jaylon Wallace took over for Hall at quarterback with Taylor Sparks shotgun snapping. Wallace tried repeatedly passing to hall with little luck so Hall returned to his quarterback role. With time ticking away, and with Wallace now the lead blocking back, Hall followed wing backs Damien Wooldridge, Dustin Duke and tight-end Kevin Magness around the corners hoping to bust thru for the game winning touchdown.

On the games final play, Hall was tackled out-of-bounds at the 8-yard line by a Lion defender as time expired. A fun game to watch but disappointing for Italy fans and the C-team who fell 8-yards short of making their 4th consecutive Superbowl appearance in four years.

A-Team game:
Head coached by Aaron Itson and assisted by Jasenio Anderson and Shedrick Walker, the IYAA A-team Gladiators entered their conference championship game on a mission. Since its founding in 2000, the IYAA A-team had never reached a Superbowl game and thus had a chance to make organizational history with a playoff win over Hubbard.

Quarterback Ryder Itson masterfully orchestrated Italy’s offense with Michael Gonzalez at the center position. Jonathan Salas and Cade Brewer helped move the ball on the ground while Ryder Itson periodically tested Hubbard’s secondary. Italy delivered the first blow when Salas and Brewer led the way for Ryder Itson who dashed 42-yards for the game’s first touchdown. Brewer dove across the goal line for the extra-point to give Italy a 7-0 advantage.

With just :02 seconds remaining before halftime, and with the ball on the Jaguar 1-yard line, Ryder Itson goes under center and takes the snap from Gonzalez before plowing his way across the goal line to give Italy a 13-0 advantage. Salas ran in for the bonus point to give Italy a comfortable 14-0 edge at halftime.

Both teams went scoreless in the third-quarter but Italy had a 2nd and 5 at Hubbards’ 25-yard line to start the fourth-quarter. Two runs by Ryder Itson advanced the ball to the seventeen but a penalty on Italy spotted the ball back at the 35-yard line. Salas with a determined run pushed the pile to the Jag’s 21-yard line. Ryder Itson keeps to the seventeen but Italy is left with a 3rd down and 14 yards needed for the first down.

Ryder Itson rolls left and passes to an open Garrett Cash who hurries into the end zone to put Italy well in front, 20-0. With the score 20-0 and room to breathe, Coach Itson calls for a field goal attempt so Gonzalez readies to snap, Ryder Itson prepares to hold and kicker Jonathan Salas calls for the snap. The Gonzalez snap is on target and the kick by Salas splits the uprights. Up 21-0, Coach Itson rushes off the sidelines to congratulate his guys as Salas leaps into his arms in celebration. The head referee would later comment, “I haven’t seen kids at this level even attempt a field goal in the 9-years I’ve been officiating,” which gives a better understanding of Italy’s feeling of accomplishment.

On the ensuing kickoff by Salas, Aedan Brewer pushes a Jaguar returner away from the ball allowing Ryder Itson to recover for Italy. Three plays later, a 25 yard run by Cade Brewer sets up a 22 yard touchdown run by Salas giving Italy a 27-0 victory to claim the conference championship and advance to the inaugural 2012 NEH Superbowl being hosted in Italy this coming Saturday.

Congratulations to the IYAA A-team players, their coaches and to their cheerleaders who will also be competing in a cheer contest during the NEH Superbowl! Win or lose, the IYAA A-team and their cheerleaders have already made history!!

Superbowl Schedule at Willis Field – Saturday, November 10, 2012:

C Division:

  • C-team Cheer Contest / Hubbard vs. Plamer— 9:30 a.m.
  • C-team Superbowl / Palmer vs. Blooming Grove — 10:00 p.m.
  • Cheer awards presented at halftime
  • Football awards presented after game

B Division:

  • B-team Cheer Contest / Hubbard vs Itasca — 11:00 a.m.
  • B-team Superbowl / Palmer vs. Mildred — 11:30 p.m.
  • Cheer awards presented at halftime
  • Football awards presented after game

A Division:

  • A-team Cheer Contest / Italy vs. Palmer — 12:45 a.m.
  • A-team Superbowl / Italy vs. Palmer — 11:30 p.m.
  • Cheer awards presented at halftime
  • Football awards presented after game

Good luck to all the players, cheerleaders and coaches competing in the inaugural 2012 NEH Superbowl!

IYAA Sports, “The winning tradition starts here.”