Italy — Hico nearly went the distance on their first offensive play of the game but Italy’s Cody Boyd made a touchdown saving tackle from behind, giving his teammates a chance to regroup. Shortly thereafter, the Tigers eventually struck the game’s first blow to go up 6-0 over the Gladiators.
Italy quickly countered with a big pass play from quarterback TaMarcus Sheppard to Tre Robertson, who made an incredible catch inside the 5-yard line to setup a possible game-tying touchdown. Sheppard plunged in from 3-yards out behind linemen Zain Byers and Kevin Roldan to make the score 6-6 to get the excitement started early Friday night at Willis Field.
Unfortunately for Italy, the rest of the first half belonged to Hico with the visiting Tigers building a staggering 32-6 lead going into the halftime break. Although Italy’s offense continues to sputter, the players deserve kudos for trying to make the new system work under the guidance of head coach Charles Tindol. For every yard forward, it seems, Italy’s offense moves three yards backwards but there’s no give up in the Gladiators or the coaching staff who keep fighting the good fight.
Italy’s committee of running backs including Sheppard, Tyler Anderson, Shad Newman, Hunter Merimon and Justin Wood, and even Robertson at times keep trying to spark the ground game of the Gladiators but big plays have been scarce. Sheppard was unable to finish the game but will be ready for the Wampus Cats tomorrow.
The best offensive highlight of the second half for Italy was a a drop back pass by Anderson who tossed the ball half the distance of the field to Robertson streaking for the end zone. Robertson made the catch for Italy’s second touchdown of the game despite pass interference being called against the Tigers. The effort by the two seniors gives Italy fans hope as the Gladiators enter into their first district game against Itasca on Friday.
Defensively, a crunching sack by Merimon in the first-half, which resulted in a fumble recovery by Zain Byers, proved Italy is still a dangerous team. Near picks by Robertson and Levi McBride even further cemented that fact as did a bruising hit by linebacker Coby Bland that jarred the ball loose in the second-half. Again, Zain Byers recovered the Hico fumble and went on to lead the Gladiator defense with 12 total tackles, despite briefly leaving the game with a hand injury.
Other standout performances were turned in by Cody Medrano who finished with 6 tackles and safety Ryan Connor who contributed 10 tackles, both season highs for each player. Although they were used sparingly, it was good to see Bailey Walton and Bland both back in action after being out with injuries which bodes well for the Gladiators as they begin their district campaign this week.
Hico won the final preseason game 47-13 to hand the Gladiators the fourth consecutive loss but Coach Tindol commented after the game, “I thought the first-quarter was our best opening quarter of the season and we got some things figured out in the second-half that I find encouraging as we move forward.”
Four losses is difficult to endure but Italy suffered through similar preseason last season when they started off 1-4 before going undefeated in district. The players know overcoming the odds is possible and the time is now for the Gladiators to start the march.
Friday night’s game will be in Itasca starting at 7:30 p.m. and fan support will go along ways in helping Italy begin district play 1-0.
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 — Levi McBride
- Hitman — Hunter Merimon
- Hitman — Coby Bland
- Hitman — Zain Byers
- Top Offensive Lineman — Kevin Roldan
- Top Defensive Lineman — Cody Medrano
- Offensive MVP — Trevon Robertson
- Defensive MVP — Zain Byers
- Overall Team MVP — Cody Boyd