Crossroads — A breakout game from sophomore running back Hunter Merimon who carried 31 times for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns sparked Italy’s offense that scored in the forties for the second consecutive game, totaled 563 yards by game’s end and produced 6 rushing touchdowns.
The Gladiators pulled thru for head coach Charles Tindol who was battling the flu on the sideline while trying to guide his players who found themselves in a fight to the final buzzer. The perfect medicine, senior quarterback Tamarcus Sheppard provided relief for Coach Tindol who managed 146 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries and completed 4-of-5 passes for 60 yards.
Whatever their ills may have been during the pre-season, Italy’s offense has discovered a cure with Sheppard, Merimon, Shad Newman and Coby Bland each recording touchdowns against Crossroads behind a dominant performance by Italy’s big heavies up front.
Led by a masterful blocking display from left tackle Darol Mayberry who was relentless when drive blocking, Italy’s backfield flourished behind Mayberry and his line mates which include, RT Kevin Roldan, RG Zain Byers, C Kyle Fortenberry and LG Cody Medrano who combined with Mayberry for their group’s best performance of the season. Italy could have easily been leading 33-0 at halftime but a pair of unexpected touchdowns, one by the Bobcat defense and one setup by a kick return to Italy’s 1-yard line, kept Crossroads in the game who only trailed by 11-points starting the second-half, 27-16.
Italy’s Clayton Miller started the game off with a fair catch at the Italy 45-yard line and then 3 carries by Merimon advance the ball to the Bobcat twenty-seven. A fumble on the next play kept Italy from scoring on their opening drive but Merimon and the Italy offense gets rolling again from their own forty-seven after a Bobcat punt. Merimon follows Newman up the gut and then breaks away to the Bobcat 8-yard line. Newman then carries to the five behind a Mayberry block. Newman stretches the play behind a downfield block from Trevon Robertson to cross the goal line and put Italy up 6-0. The point-after kick misses.
After a Roldan kickoff, Crossroads gains 16 yards to their 33-yard line. Pressure by defensive end Zain Byers helps force an incomplete pass on the next play. The Bobcats keep the drive going, however, and reach Italy’s 23-yard line. After a false start penalty, a timely sack by Sheppard pushes the Bobcats back to the Italy 34-yard line. Byers tackles the Bobcats for a loss back at the forty-one. A completed pass advances the ball back to the original line-of-scrimmage but on 4th down and 10, Italy’s defensive bookends in Bailey Walton and Byers team up to force an incomplete pass which closes the chapter on the Bobcats’ scoring threat.
From his own 31-yard line, Sheppard keeps for 11-yards and a 1st down. Merimon scampers to the Bobcat twenty-eight, a 31 yard effort. Merimon leads for Newman who maneuvers around a downfield block from Miller to the enemy’s fifteen. Sheppard rolls out and is sacked from behind and loses control of the ball in the process. The Bobcats scoop-and-score the gift and race 73-yards for the game tying touchdown, 6-6. Cross Roads slips in for the conversion to take the lead, 8-6. A much needed score for the Bobcats with their offense doing much and their defense unable to slow down the Gladiator running game aside from the two early turnovers.
Levi McBride fair catches the ensuing kickoff at Italy’s 37-yard line. Coach Tindol opts to stick with the idea, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and continues to feed Merimon who gains seven to the forty-one. Merimon is spun down after picking up another Italy 1st down at the Bobcat forty forty-six. Sheppard hits the sideline and gets another downfield block from Robertson and a de-cleater from Roldan for another 1st down to the thirty-two. Merimon finds the gap between McBride and Mayberry to reach the fifteen with Robertson blocking downfield. A clipping call backs Italy all the way to the forty-seven but Newman gets eleven yards back on the next carry. Merimon gains 1st down yardage to the twenty-eight.
Back in business, Sheppard keeps to the Bobcat twenty-two. Coby Bland leads Newman out of the backfield and down to the sixteen. Bland carries to the 9-yard line behind Byers, Roldan and a drive block by Mayberry. Newman covers his own fumble at the eleven as the first-quarter ends with a scare for Italy’s fans.
Merimon runs behind Roldan and Mayberry to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Roldan and Mayberry split the green jerseys apart to allow Bland a standing touchdown. Italy regains control 12-8 and then adds to it after Roldan boots thru the point-after with Fortenberry snapping and Tyler Anderson holding to go up 13-8.
Crossroads hoped to respond but consecutive tackles by Medrano sets up up an interception by Sheppard who returns the pick 39-yards to the Bobcat 5-yard line. Merimon gains 1 yard to the four and the Sheppard keeps behind Byers, Newman and Fortenberry for Italy’s third touchdown of the game and Sheppard’s first. Roldan’s accurate point-after kick gives Italy a 20-7 cushion.
Just as things were seeming to settle down and Italy on the verge of separating from Crossroads on the score board, the Bobcats slip thru on the ensuing kickoff and race down to Italy’s 1-yard line with Cody Boyd making the touchdown saving tackle for the Gladiators. A middle push on the keeper tightens the game 20-14 and a successful conversion try by the Bobcats makes the score 20-16.
Italy starts from their 48-yard line after the kick and Merimon is still the go to guy who carries to the forty-seven of Crossroads. Just as the Bobcats stole Italy’s thunder after a Gladiators touchdown, Italy was about to return the favor when Merimon poked thru and used Robertson, who hustled to block two different Bobcats on the play, to get into the end zone to steal back the momentum from the Bobcats. The play also spotlighted a Mayberry drive block as he drove a Bobcat linebacker 13-yards backwards, reminiscent of the scene from the movie Blindside when Michael Orr’s character drives a defender beyond the field and into the bleachers. Merimon’s first touchdown on the night gives Italy a 27-16 edge after Anderson and Roldan manage the hold and kick despite the deteriorating conditions of a mud-slicked field.
Crossroads hopes to keep pace and makes a fair catch at their own 39-yard line. Byers and Newman drop the Bobcats for 2 yard loss. Junior inside tackle John Byers tackles the Bobcat QB after a gain of one. Colin Newman, also a junior, inside tackle for Italy, combines with John Byers who brings down a Bobcat runner in the backfield back to the thirty-eight. The Bobcats punt.
Italy begins at their own forty-five and advances to the Bobcat 37-yard line. On 4th and 3, however, the Bobcat defense holds to take over on downs. Crossroads moves the ball but back-to-back incomplete passes result in a punt that pens Italy back at their own fifteen.
Italy drives deep into Bobcat territory but a completion from Sheppard to Ryan Connor results in Italy’s fourth fumble of the first-half and the third fumble taken away by the Bobcats who advance this one to their forty-five. The Bobcat QB goes to the air but Boyd and Connor disrupt the possible catch. Sheppard records another tackle as a wild first-half of football comes to an end.
The Gladiator Regiment Band and Color Guard lives up to the hype with their halftime routine becoming a must see event. Drum Majors Emily Stiles and Alexis Sampley both led their troops by splitting time on the podium. Directors Jesus Perez and David Graves, and Color Guard sponsor Amber Droll, basked with their hard-working kids looking locked-n-loaded for competition. Ready, march!
Roldan kicks a tricker to the Bobcats with Boyd making a diving recovery for Italy at the Bobcat forty. Italy’s first possession of the second-half collapses quickly and the Bobcats take over at their own forty-one. The Crossroads offense begins to matriculate the ball down field and pose a threat inside Italy’s twenty. The Gladiators stand their ground and on 4th and goal, Walton and Zain Byers converge on the Bobcat QB to force an incomplete pass for a turnover on downs.
From their ten, Italy drives away from the shadow of their own end zone and a carry by Bland leaves Italy needing just 2 yards for a 1st down at their own 46-yard line to end the third-quarter of play with the Gladiators still in front, 27-16.
Sheppard lunges forward for the 1st down but Italy’s drive eventually stalls at the Bobcat 31-yard line. Boyd breaks up a pass but the Bobcats pass for 15 yards on the next play and a 1st down. The Bobcats catch-and-run to the Italy twenty-five with Medrano making the tackle from behind. After a pass drop, a near sack by Zain Byers helps Robertson to knock down a pass attempt into the end zone. Unbelievably, a BOGUS pass interference call in the end zone helps out the Bobcats who enjoy a gift-wrapped 1st down at Italy’s 7-yard line.
After a catch at the three, Robertson dislodges the ball after a near completion in the end zone to bring up a 3rd and goal. The Bobcat QB has the ball slip out of his hands but gets a friendly bounce and rolls away from trouble to find an open receiver for a touchdown. Another successful conversion try makes it a game again at 27-24 with Italy in front by a field goal.
The ensuing onside kickoff attempt only travels 1 yard with Italy finally catching a break at the Bobcat forty-one. On the next play, Sheppard proved to be uncatchable as he sprinted the 41-yards needed for a touchdown thanks to Boyd and McBride blocking downfield. Fortenberry snaps, Anderson holds and Roldan kicks it, increasing Italy’s lead, 34-24, on the scoreboard.
The Bobcats start from their 46-yard line. Robertson and John Byers combine for a tackle on the advancing Bobcat QB with John Byers jarring the ball out from behind. A Crossroads player recovers for a 1st down which is legal since the ball was fumbled forward outside of the 2-minute warning. Spotted at the Italy 40-yard line, the Bobcats hurl a bomb pass that is caught at the 1-yard line. A QB sneak barely breaks the plane of the goal line to make the score 34-30. The swinging-gate conversion try fails but those pesky Bobcats just refuse to roll over.
After an Italy punt, Crossroads has a chance to pull off the comeback but Shad Newman follows his instincts to intercept a Bobcat pass that had breached midfield. Italy relies on their offensive line and tight ends, Boyd and McBride, to finish the game. Sheppard continually drains the play clock before calling for the snaps to start the plays. Italy takes their time while traveling from their thirty-eight down to the Bobcat 4-yard line. Merimon caps off his tremendous outing with a 4 yard cutback into the end zone. His second TD of the game seals victory for Italy with Roldan punctuating the win with one last point-after kick, 41-30.
- Overall MVP — TaMarcus Sheppard (Offensively: 206 total yards on offense and 2 rushing touchdowns. Defensively: 1 sack and 1 INT (39-yards))
- Offensive MVP — Hunter Merimon (275 rushing yards on 31 carries and 2 touchdowns)
- Defensive MVP — Shad Newman (1 INT and 6 tackles)
- Top Offensive Linemen — Darol Mayberry, Kevin Roldan, Kyle Fortenberry, Cody Medrano, Zain Byers, Tyler Vencill and Bailey Walton
- Top Defensive Lineman — Zain Byers
- Hitman — John Byers
- Special Teams MVP — Cody Boyd (Recovered Italy’s kickoff to start second-half)
ITALY OFFENSIVE STATS:
|Gladiator||Carries||Rush YDS||REC||Rec YDS||Pass Comp/YDS||TD Pass||TD|
ITALY DEFENSIVE STATS:
|Sheppard||4||1||1||1||2||1 (39 yards)|
|S. Newman||3||3||1 (4 yards)|
ITALY SPECIAL TEAMS:
Special thanks to our water boys Gary Escamilla, Clay RIddle and Issac Garcia and to our stat squad girls, Jaclynn Lewis, Hannah Washington and Bailey Eubank.
At last check, Coach Tindol is feeling much better and has been attending this weeks practices with wife Nicole keeping an eye on him from the bleachers. Aaaawww!