Sunnyvale — Despite playing seemingly well, the Italy Gladiator defense struggled to keep the Sunnyvale Raiders out of their end zone. Offensively, Italy was able to move the ball but just couldn’t finish a majority of their drives. Whether it was an regrettable play call or a false start penalty, it wasn’t as much of what Sunnyvale’s defense was doing, but rather, Italy simply being their own worst enemy.
With all that said, the demeanor of Italy’s players remain completely positive. Perhaps their early season woes during last years regular season run, when Italy began the season 1-4 before running off 8 straight wins, helps keep everything in perspective for the current Gladiators. With everyone still trying to learn a new system being implemented by head coach Charles Tindol and his staff, wins or losses are irrelative at this point.
Adding to the uphill climb for Italy has been the revolving door on the injury reserve list. Justin Wood and Colin Newman returned to the lineup this week to see their first action of the season while linebacker/running back Coby Bland sat this one out. Tackle Darol Mayberry was questionable to play and was held out of practices but toughed it out and put together a solid game against Sunnyvale. However, it looks as though Italy may have another key player sidelined for a week or two. Coach Tindol has done everything he can to help the team avoid further injuries and his message to them before district has been to stay healthy.
Sunnyvale methodically built a 20-0 lead by the 4:14 mark of the second-quarter but the Gladiators got their attention just before halftime. TaMarcus Sheppard found time behind his offensive line with Kyle Fortenberry, Cody Medrano, Darol Mayberry, Bailey Walton and Kevin Roldan up front and then found Trevon Robertson open in the middle of the field as the two teamed up for a 40-yard touchdown reception.
With Fortenberry snapping and Tyler Anderson with the hold, Roldan sailed the point-after kick between the uprights for some much needed Gladiator momentum with :59 seconds left before the break.
During halftime, the Gladiator Regiment Marching Band and Color Guard made their dramatic entrance onto the field with drummer boy, Blake Brewer, leading out the regiment from the end zone and toward midfield. Performing under the theme, “The War Between The States,” note general Jesus Perez and fellow band director David Graves have plotted a well laid musical plan of attack as band majors Alexis Sampley and Emily Stiles took turns leading their soldiers of sound. Reagan Adams pressed forward on the marimba, Jacob “Stanley” Brooks manned the vibraphone, football player Ryan Connor joined David De La Hoya and Kendrick Norwood in the tuba section as the flags waved and the war tunes raged on.
Second half highlights were provided by defensive end Zain Byers who stripped a Raider receiver of the ball inside the 10-yard line as cousin John Byers was bringing the Raider to the turf. Z. Byers then rumbled 14-yards out to the twenty-three to ignite Italy’s crowd. Italy again foiled a Raider scoring opportunity when cornerback Justin Wood reached back to corral a pass at the goal line and then sprinted down the Gladiator sideline for 50-yard interception return. A penalty spotted the ball back at Italy’s 10-yard line but the play proved Italy was not going down without a fight.
A pass from Anderson to Levi McBride who ran along Sunnyvale’s sideline before cutting across the field for a 56-yard gain setup Italy’s second touchdown on the night. From the Raider 17-yard line, Sheppard took a handoff from Anderson and slashed his way down to the three. On the following play, Anderson followed his war chariots across the goal line for the TD to make the score 34-13.
Roldan’s kick pushed wide but with 8:17 remaining in the contest, at least Italy’s offense was finally finding a rhythm. Helping to find that rhythm was senior band member JoeMack Pitts and his bandmates along with cheerleaders Taylor Turner (captain), Britney Chambers, Kristian Weeks, K’Breona Davis, Jessica Garcia, Ashlyn Jacinto, Kelsey Nelson, and Gladiator mascot Noeli Garcia who never wavered in the support.
This past Friday night also marked the first time in this young season that the Gladiator offensive had a running back surpass the 100 yard barrier with Sheppard carrying 18 times for 111 yards with the team totaling 174 rushing yards. Quarterbacks Anderson and Sheppard combined for 123 passing yards as well.
More good news for Italy was sophomore safety Ryan Connor’s performance who came off a big game against Malakoff and then recorded 5 tackles and 1 assist against Sunnyvale. Colin Newman returned from injury and provided relief to the D-line while recording 2 tackles and 2 assists in limited action and cornerback Justin Wood stepped on the field and shined in his season debut with the previously mentioned pick and 4 solo tackles. Although his efforts didn’t show up in the stat column this outing, Tyler Vincell provided solid minutes for Coach Tindol on special teams and on defense.
The Gladiators will take on a fellow 1A program this coming Friday night in Hubbard but the Jaguars are considered one of the best in the state and should provide answers to any questions Gladiator fans may have regarding their own team’s state of affairs.
ITALY OFFENSIVE STATS:
|Gladiator||Carries||Rush YDS||REC||Rec YDS||Pass Comp/YDS||TD Pass||TD|
ITALY DEFENSIVE STATS:
|Z. Byers||9||3||1||1 (14-yards)||1|
ITALY SPECIAL TEAMS:
- Special Teams MVP — TaMarcus Sheppard
- Offensive Line — Cody Medrano
- Offensive MVP — Tyler Anderson
- Defensive Line — Bailey Walton
- Defensive MVP — Zain Byers
- Hard Hitter — Zain Byers
- Overall MVP — TaMarcus Sheppard
- Top Teammate (practice and game) — Shad Newman / Coaches note: Shad was a true Gladiator this week, fighting thru an injury to post his best performance of the season. Shad recorded 11 solo tackles and 3 assists on defense and carried twice on offense for 13 yards.
Special thanks to our fans, the band and the cheerleaders for displaying school pride and team spirit throughout the game!
The Italy JV/JH Gladiators will play Hubbard’s JV at home at Willis Field on Thursday, September 19. The JV/JH gate prices will be as follows:
- Adults — $4.00
- Students/Children — $2.00