Italy’s 7th grade Gladiators had to get dirty in this one in order to shut out the visiting Crossroads Bobcats. Despite Willis Field’s muddy surface, power back Jonathan Salas was relentless behind his hard working offensive line who helped Italy take a 6-0 lead into halftime.
Italy punted after their first possession of the second-half but solid defense by Jacob Wiser, Adam Powell and Issac Garcia forced Crossroads backwards. After the third-quarter went scoreless, quarterback Marcos Duarte hands off to Salas who breaks free from tacklers to go the distance. Salas pushes Italy further out front, 12-0, with 5:24 left to play in the fourth-quarter.
Duarte recovers a Bobcat fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Moments later, Salas scores again to make the score 18-0. Marco adds 2-ponts on a keeper up the middle to increase Italy’s advantage 20-0
With 1:30 remaining in the game, Salas strips the ball from the Crossroads QB, picks up the fumble and then eludes tacklers for a 65-yard touchdown return. The effort by Salas gives Italy a 26-0 lead. Adam Powell runs in for the 2-point conversion to make the score 28-0 in favor of Italy.
Crossroads drives late but Italy’s defense blocks all lanes leading to the endzone to preserve their 28-0 shutout.
8th Grade Game:
It took a bit of work, but Italy’s Kendrick Norwood scurries in from 25-yards out to give Italy’s 8th grade Gladiators a 6-0 lead at the 4:28 mark of the first-quarter. Receiver Ben Latimer seals the edge for Kyle Tindol who bullies his way in for the conversion to give Italy an 8-0 edge.
Crossroads counters with 1:00 left in the opening quarter to tighten the deficit 8-6. The conversion try by the Bobcats fails, allowing Italy to maintain a lead.
Front line blocker Clay Riddle covers a short squib kick from the Bobcats to give Italy good field position near midfield. Italy begins to drive with quarterback Tylan Wallace handing off to both Norwood and Tindol as the first-quarter comes to an end.
Early in the second-quarter, Wallace completes a touchdown pass to a wide open Gary Escamilla who crosses the goal line void of any resistance. The play gives Italy a 14-6 lead that expands after Tindol runs to the right side behind tackle Anthony Lusk to put the 8th grade Gladiators up 18-6.
After a Crossroads punt, Tindol strikes again with a long touchdown run to increase Italy’s lead 22-6. Norwood runs left after taking the handoff from Wallace and gets in for 2 more points, Italy leads 24-6.
Crossroads surprises Italy on the ensuing kickoff return when they go all the way for the touchdown. The big play cuts the lead in half, 24-12, but Riddle foils the 2-point try by the Bobcats by stuffing the play in the backfield.
Italy then surprises Crossroads when Wallace matches the Bobcat return with a lead stretching kickoff return of his own. Wallace takes it to the house to give Italy a 30-12 cushion with 1:31 left in the half. The conversion pass attempt was intercepted but the Bobcat defender didn’t get far after the pick.
Crossroads tries to duplicate their previous kick return but is unable to take it all the way. On the next play, Garrett Janek interecepts the Bobcat quarterback and returns the ball close to midfield.
Wallace drops back and finds Escamilla, again, this time for a 55-yard touchdown. Escamilla’s sure hands gives Italy a 36-12 lead. Norwood starts left, cuts back right and then high steps into endzone with a Bobcat on his tail. Norwood makes the count, 38-12, with 0:58 to play in the first-half.
Wallace and Janek strip the Bobcat kick returner runner but the visitors recover in time to watch the big play filled first-half come to an end.
With a running clock in the second-half, the Bobcats add one last touchdown in the second-half but Italy’s 8th graders cruise to a 38-18 win.