Italy — With the team’s bus receiving a hero’s farewell from businesses and fans, Sandy Eubank and Ray Don Adams (of the Uptown Cafe), defied a warning from the Italy police escort and stretched a giant spirit banner across Highway 34, that cuts thru downtown Italy, to show the town’s support for the team. It was all in good fun and the Gladiators appreciated the sendoff as they traveled to neutral Tiger Stadium in Glen Rose to challenge the Goldthwaite Eagles in a battle for the 2012 Region II Division I Regional Quarterfinal Championship. A victory, would give Italy a berth in the semifinals and a chance to, “Continue in the playoffs!”
As the first half sped by, Italy managed to hold a 6-0 lead at halftime thanks to an 8-yard touchdown effort by Ryheem Walker. Goldthwaite opened the third-quarter with a clock draining 17 play drive that only produced a field goal with Italy’s defense making a stand. With the score 6-3, Italy was reenergized and drove down the field where a pass completion from Marvin Cox to Cole Hopkins setup a 2 yard touchdown carry by Cox to put Italy up 12-3. Cox and Hopkins hooked up again for the conversion with Hopkins touching both feet in-bounds near the back of the end zone for the conversion.
With Italy up 14-3, and Goldthwaite’s struggling offense needing two scores, it was all but over as Italy played conservative the rest of the way on offense as the Gladiator defense kept the Eagle on lockdown throughout the majority of the fourth-quarter. With Cox taking a knee in the victory formation, the celebration began as the final seconds ticked away.
Gladiator head coach Hank Hollywood and his players were presented the regional quarterfinal championship trophy immediately following the game and given time to share the moment with family members and fans before heading back to their Gladiator headquarters in Italy to begin preparing for their semifinal matchup against Stamford on Friday, December 14, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Mineral Wells.