Maypearl — Italy’s JV Gladiator team is a mixture of new faces, experienced veterans, late camp arrivals and players playing in their first regulation game of their young careers. With Italy trying to develop chemistry within a new system, Maypearl’s JV took advantage and built a quick 14-0 lead by the end of the first-quarter.
Quarterback Joe Celis struggled to handle snaps smoothly from center David De La Hoya throughout the game which disrupted Italy’s offensive timing. Just before the end of the first half, a backwards pass attempt by Italy resulted in a live fumble that was scooped up by the Panther defense who dashed into the end zone for their third touchdown of the game.
Italy’s defense held the middle on the 2-point conversion try but Maypearl enjoyed a 20-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, at least when the plays got off to a good start, Italy usually managed to make something positive happen despite mounting injuries. Elliot Worsham had to take an early exit with a strained wrist and forearm while Jorge Rodriguez was slowed with a knee problem.
After a snap sailed over the head of Maypearl’s punter, who retreated back to his 1-yard line before getting the punt away before Celis could block the kick, Italy was left with good field position at the Panther 20-yard line. Unfortunately, more snap miscues and loosing 4-yards kept Italy’s offense stuck in cement. De La Hoya punted the ball down to the 1-yard line of the Panthers with Kenneth Norwood, Jr., hustling downfield to keep the ball out of the end zone.
After a false start penalty on the Panthers, Maypearl opted to pass out of the jam but Italy’s Johnny Norris picked off the pass, avoided a Panther tackler and then strided into the end zone. The pick-six by Norris made the score 20-6 and gave new life to the JV Gladiator sideline and their entertaining cheerleaders with just over one minute remaining in the third.
In the fourth, Celis came up gimpy late in the game but Clayton Miller filled in and completed 1-of-3 passes with Dylan McCasland on the receiving end of Miller’s lone completion to move the chains. Celis did return to the lineup but time was running out on Italy’s comeback.
Although Italy outscored Maypearl 6-0 in the second half, the 20-0 halftime deficit was too much for the JV Gladiators to overcome but their effort until the final buzzer was encouraging. More time together, quick healing and more application of their newfound skills will make the difference for Italy’s JV squad as the season marches on.
Other notable players for Italy were Hunter Ballard who made a special teams tackle during a kickoff, a tackle for a loss by DT Samuel Corley which really ignited his teammates, solid secondary performances by Fabian Cortez and Aaron Latimer, Eli Garcia who made a key catch in the second half and tenacious play in the trenches by Adrian Acevedo, Aaron Pittmon, Austin Pittmon, Ray Salas and Austin Crawford.