Waxahachie — Italy’s AD/HFC Charles Tindol, his staff, the players, the band and flag corp, the cheerleaders, the water boys, the film crew, the Stat Squad girls and the rest of Gladiator Nation settled in this past Friday night inside Waxahachie’s Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium to enjoy the sights and sounds of the 2nd Annual Dale Hansen Football Classic.
During the pre-game ceremony, Italy seniors Taylor Turner and Zain Byers were presented scholarship checks from Dale Hansen himself totaling $500 each as part of money donated by event sponsors to award a senior boy and a senior girl from each school with a scholarship. This year, a total of 11 scholarships were presented over the course of three games this weekend.
Senior game captains for Italy were Shadrach Newman, TaMarcus Sheppard and Darol Mayberry who walked out to Midfield for the ceremonial coin toss.
1A Italy entered Friday’s night showdown against 2A Malakoff as the underdog but in the first 11 seconds, the Gladiators shocked the Tigers when Malakoff gave up a safety after a poor pitch resulted in Italy taking 2-0 lead. Italy linebacker Hunter Merimon had a chance to fall on the bouncing pigskin for a touchdown but the Tigers managed to keep the damage to a minimum.
Malakoff kicked the ball over to Italy by rule but the Gladiator offense sputtered with Sheppard punting from the Italy 43-yard line. Malakoff took over at their forty-one and scored on their second offensive play of the game with a 59-yard touchdown run to go up 6-2. The point-after kick failed.
After the ensuing kickoff, Italy started from their own 13-yard line. Sheppard kept the ball up the middle to the twenty-three. Then Merimon maneuvered to the twenty-nine. Shad Newman gains 5 yards to the thirty-four but a holding penalty backs Italy to their twenty-nine. Sheppard is nabbed for a loss back at the twenty-two leaving the Gladiators with a 3rd and long. Sheppard drops back but Malakoff intercepts his pass intended for Trevon Robertson at the Tiger 48-yard line.
Malakoff returned to offense and tries a quick pass that is nearly picked by cornerback Cody Boyd to being up 2nd and 10. A Tiger runner tries the middle and then darts outside for what appears to be another big play for Malakoff. Merimon cuts off the Tiger back inside the fifteen and then a hustling Bailey Walton, from his defensive end position, strips the ball with tackle John Byers down field to fall on the reward at Italy’s thirteen. Gladiator fans breathe a sigh of relief as Italy goes back on offense.
Sheppard gains two but that’s all Italy can muster with Sheppard booting a short punt out-of-bounds at the Gladiator 29-yard line. After a completed pass for a loss of 4-yards, the Tigers finally show why they were the pre-game favorites and execute one block after another to get the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown run. Malakoff leads 12-2 but Boyd breaks up the conversion pass attempt to keep the Tigers from adding to their lead.
Italy starts at their own nineteen and takes two plays to reach the twenty. Sheppard then hands off to Newman who follows great blocking at the point of attack by Darol Mayberry, Kyle Fortenberry and Cody Medrano to gain twenty yards to the 40-yard line. Sheppard then rolls left and completes a pass to Robertson who makes a tremendous juggling catch with a defender draped on him as Robertson falls out-of-bounds at the Tiger 45-yard line.
Unfortunately, Italy’s drive quickly stalls and again Sheppard punts the ball away, this time to start the second-quarter. Malakoff begins again from their own 28-yard line. The Tigers run up the middle but a hard hit by Walton coming down the line dislodges the ball forward where safety Ryan Connor dives on the gift at Malakoff’s 35-yard line. Finally, Italy has their best field position of the game and momentum.
Merimon slips a tackle and advances the ball down to the Tiger 21-yard line. With Zain Byers, Fortenberry and Medrano getting key blocks at the point of attack, Sheppard follows Newman up the middle to the eighteen. Newman runs inside for about a half yard to setup a pass from Sheppard to Connor who makes the catch in the left corner of the endzone to get Italy back into the game, but still trailing 12-8. Fortenbery snaps to holder Tyler Anderson as Kevin Roldan kicks thru the extra point to close the gap 12-9.
Roldan kicks off and Malakoff makes a fair catch at their 33-yard line. The Tigers run for 10-yards, and then two plays later, connect on a bomb for a 57-yard touchdown pass to reestablish a comfortable lead 18-9. The point-after kick is good and Malakoff leads 19-9.
Anderson can only reach the 12-yard line on the kickoff as Italy starts again from inside their own twenty. A sack back at the five forces Italy to punt from their own endzone with Roldan doing the honors this time. After a slight bobble while trying to handle the snap, Roldan gets the kick away while under duress and Malakoff sets up shop at Italy’s 17-yard line.
Malakoff’s QB hands off and then the back avoids penetration by Byers and pitches to another Tiger back turning would could have been a loss on the play into a 10 yard gain to Italy’s 7-yard line with Fortenberry forcing the pitch man out-of-bounds. However, a holding call spots the ball back at the 18 yard line. Malakoff tries a receiver screen but Byers tracks the ball down to make the tackle from behind at the 7-yard line.
Walton has a nose for the ball and tackles Malakoff’s QB for a 4 yard loss back to the eleven. The Tigers open a hole up the middle and rumble across the goal line with Merimon’s tackle coming to late. Malakoff now leads 25-9 and the point-after kick makes the score 26-9.
Robertson gets a block from Anderson and dances his way to Italy’s 25-yard line on the ensuing Tiger kickoff. Anderson takes over for Sheppard at quarterback. Italy loses yards on their drive and Roldan punts it back over to the Tigers.
From the Gladiator forty-six, Malakoff runs right, escapes tacklers and seems to be heading into the endzone until Walton makes a diving tackle from behind at Italy’s 29-yard line. Malakoff uses an out pass that nearly scores but Connor makes the tackle at the 8-yard line to keep the Tigers working for it. Malakoff loses five after a false start and then throws into the turf incomplete. Roldan makes a tackle on a middle run at Italy’s eight but the Tigers score on a keeper the following play to go up 32-9. The point-after kick is true and the Tigers lead 32-9. Malakoff squeezes in another touchdown before the break and takes a 39-9 lead into halftime.
Both the Malakoff Band and the Gladiator Regiment Marching Band and Color Guard perform at halftime. With this year’s theme being, “The war between the states,” Italy marches across the field using a dramatic soldier’s march-like entrance with a lone drummer boy, Blake Brewer, at the front. Once in position, drum major Alexis Sampley leads the charge from the podium with the band continuing to improve with every performance.
The second half belonged to the Tigers who showed no mercy and continued to pour it on throughout. Italy’s best highlight from the second half was an interception by Connor who snagged a sideline pass in stride and sprinted 40 yards for an Italy touchdown.
On the P.A.T. attempt, Italy tried some razzle-dazzle of their own but a pitch from the holder, Anderson, skipped off Merimon’s shoulder pad and was quickly scooped up by one of Malakoff’s top runners. With blockers on either side, the talented Tiger surged down the middle of the field and across the 50-yard line before a determined Bland caught the Tiger by the tail and slung him down for another exciting effort by a Gladiator.
The touchdown by Connor made the score a whole bunch to just 15-points for Italy but the talented sophomore and the effort play by Bland and a pass completion from Anderson to sophomore Clayton Miller who made the catch after taking a hard shove in midair provided some solace for Gladiator fans before Malakoff finished off Italy 67-15.
There were a few other bright spots for Italy as well. With Walton leading the defensive side with his two caused fumbles, one of which setup Italy’s lone offensive touchdown by Connor, the Gladiator defense forced three turnovers against the Tigers and put 8-points on the board in total. That’s a good sign for Italy’s vaunted defense as district play draws near. Offensively, Italy has weapons but the timing within their new system still needs tweaking. Perhaps, most importantly, team Italy hung in there and battled for four full quarters and that is always a good foundation for any program.
ITALY OFFENSIVE STATS:
|Gladiator||Carries||Rush YDS||REC||Rec YDS||Pass Comp/YDS||TD Pass||TD|
ITALY DEFENSIVE STATS:
ITALY SPECIAL TEAMS:
- Special Teams MVP — Kevin Roldan
- Offensive Line — Darol Mayberry
- Defensive Line — Bailey Walton
- Hard Hit — Bailey Walton
- Offensive MVP — Tyler Anderson
- Defensive MVP — Ryan Connor
- Top Teammate (practice and game) — Coby Bland
Special thanks to Dale Hansen who is an award winning sportscaster with ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA, Channel 8. Hansen is the weeknight sports anchor and also hosts Dale Hansen’s Sports Special on Sunday nights. Each week Hansen also recognizes a Scholar-Athlete of the Week who excels both on and off the field.
We also appreciate title sponsors for the 2013 2nd Annual Dale Hansen Football Classic which include: WFAA, City Credit Union and the Waxahachie Convention & Visitors Bureau. Also, thanks to Waxahachie ISD and Nicole Mansell, Waxahachie ISD Director of Public relations, who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make the Classic the success it has been over its first two years.
The Italy JV/JH Gladiators will play Sunnyvale at home on Thursday, September 12. The JV/JH gate prices will be as follows:
- Adults — $4.00
- Students/Children — $2.00