Italy — Italy High School Homecoming 2013 proved to be a most exhilarating week of fun for current students and a perfect return home for visiting alumni who helped cheer the Gladiators to an upset win over Cayuga, reunited with former classmates and enjoyed a downtown parade and pep rally with all the sirens, horns, bells and whistles.
Italy HS cheer captain, Taylor Turner, announced the Homecoming King Nominees with Tyler Anderson, Shad Newman, Zain Byers, Kevin Roldan and Bailey Walton each keeping their swords and shields crossed for luck. Walton was crowned the king as Turner adorned him with an official sash and golden crown as Roldan cried mock tears.
Additional events added to the homecoming festivities. The Lady Gladiator varsity and JV volleyball teams played matches against Frost inside Italy Coliseum. Italy’s Turner, Paige Westbrook and Monserrat Figueroa were honored between games as a part of the team’s Senior Day celebration. And all Italy HS supporters, it seemed, attended the George E. Scott Memorial Scholarship Dinner hosted inside the high school cafeteria. The dinner helps raise college scholarship money used to assist future and current scholarship recipients.
The Gladiator Regiment Marching Band and Color Guard executed perhaps their bast overall performance of the year, thus far. Director Jesus Peres, assistant director David Graves and color guard sponsor Amber Droll were surely thrilled as band directors Alexis Sampley and Emily Stiles helped orchestrate an emotional and patriotic routine entitled, “The War Between The States,” for visiting alumni and fans.
Joining the Italy High School cheerleaders consisting of Turner, Kelsey Nelson (co-captain) Britney Chambers, Kristian Weeks, Paige Little, Jessica Garcia, K’Breona Davis and Ashlyn Jacinto and mascot Noeli Garcia, were Italy’s Junior High cheerleaders including Kirby Nelson, Maegan Connor, Karley Nelson, Karson Holley, Sydney Weeks, Hannah Haight, Keondra Jackson, La’Jada Jackson, Maddison Galvan and Annie Perry. The IYAA cheerleaders were also called into action to help generate an extra helping of school spirit and town pride.
With both Italy and Cayuga entering the game with 2-0 district records, Roldan kicks off to get the highly anticipated battle for the district lead underway. Cayuga reaches Italy 38-yard line when Sheppard drops a Wildcat reverse for a loss back at the forty-one. Safety Ryan Connor breaks up a pass followed by an incomplete pass to give Italy’s offense the ball at the same spot.
Trevon Robertson sends a message early to the Wildcats when he winds his way down field for a 30 yard gain. From the 29-yard line, Robertson blocks downfield and flattens a Wildcat defender to propel Sheppard inside the 10-yard line. A false start penalty bogs down Italy who passes into the end zone on 3rd and long only to have the pass picked off by Cayuga for a touchback, 8:16.
From their own twenty, it doesn’t look good for the Wildcats when senior defensive end Kevin Roldan tackles Cayuga for a loss on 1st down. Things begin to look better for Cayuga on the next play, however, after pass completion moves the Wildcats closer to the sticks with Boyd, Robertson and Merimon combining for the stop. The drive stalls thanks to Zain Byers, opposite Roldan, and tough interior line play by John Byers, Bland and Walton.
Taking over in good field position, a run by sophomore Levi McBride moves Italy into scoring position at the Cayuga 23-yard line. Sheppard carries three consecutive times to reach the 2-yard line. Italy strikes first when Sheppard gets in behind his hogs up front to punch it in and give the Gladiators a 6-0 lead.
Linemen Kyle Fortenberry, Darol Mayberry, Cody Medranno, Zain Byers, Kevin Roldan and tight-ends Cody Boyd and Levi McBride have been major contributors to Italy’s offensive success the past few weeks with Sheppard settling in as the team’s signal caller. With Fortenberry snapping and Tyler Anderson on the hold, as they have done all season, Roldan foots thru the extra-point to make the score 7-0 with just over 3:00 to play in the opening quarter.
Cayuga answers on their ensuing drive to tie the game. A solid return on the kickoff by Tyler Anderson gives Italy momentum going into the next 12 minutes of play with the score knotted at 7 all.
A pass attempt by Italy swings the momentum back to Cayuga who picks it off and return the ball inside the Gladiator twenty. After a couple of short runs, a tackle for loss by sophomore outside linebacker Hunter Merimon, backs Cayuga to the Italy 23-yard line. On 4th and long, Walton sacks the Wildcat quarterback to give Italy the ball back on downs.
McBride and Merimon lead the way downfield for Sheppard who hits a big gain and then follows up with another down Cayuga’s sideline to their 36-yard line, 9:15. Newman, at fullback, uses Roldan at right tackle to fight his way to the 33-yard line. A leap by Bland and run by Sheppard setup a chain moving run by Merimon to the fourteen.
From there, Italy regains the lead at the 6:52 mark of the second-quarter when, McBride, at tight-end, seals the edge while Merimon leads thru for Sheppard on a keeper. Boyd, at receiver, blocks an unsuspecting Wildcat defender during the play and Sheppard breaks a tackle before running out of the back of the end zone. Sheppard was greeted by Italy HS Principal Lee Joffre and Italy ISD Maintenance Crew Director Michael Chambers who vigorously celebrated the go ahead touchdown.
Cody Medrano and Tyler Vencill combine for the special teams tackle following Roldan’s kick off. Cayuga starts from their 18-yard line. Zain Byers makes the stop down the line. Robertson brings down the next runner to bring up 3rd and four. Bland and Zain Byers reach the Cayuga QB to force an incomplete pass with Robertson defending. A punt sets up Italy’s offense at midfield but their drive quickly stalls at the thirty-nine and the Gladiators punt the ball right back to the Wildcats.
Both teams trade punts with Roldan getting help from Newman and John Byers to help tackle the Wildcats to close out the first-half and preserve Italy’s 14-7 advantage going into the break.
The homecoming court was escorted by their fathers during the halftime presentation at midfield with Adrianna Celis, Corl McCarthy, Ryisha Copeland, Taylor Turner and Brianna Riddle making up the senior queen nominees and freshman Vanessa Cantu, sophomore Julissa Hernandez and junior Madison Washington as the homecoming princesses. Monserrat Figueroa and Jesica Wilkins helped crown the 2013 Italy HS Homecoming Queen, Ryisha Copeland, and also presented her with a sash and a bouquet of roses. Copeland shared the special moment with her father, Kenneth Copeland. Congratulations, Ryisha!
The Italy HS Class of 1963 was recognized at halftime as well with 8 members representing their class mates.
The Gladiators receive the second-half kickoff and methodically drive the field with the help of a pass completion from Sheppard to McBride to keep the drive going after a 1st down near Cayuga’s 20-yard line. Moments later, Merimon runs behind Medrano, Darol Mayberry and Boyd for a 1-yard touchdown run to silence the Cayuga crowd. Roldan kicks in the point-after to give Italy a 21-7 lead at the 6:50 mark of the third-quarter.
Cayuga threatened to score late in the third but a penalty along with the hard-hitting mentality of Newman, who finished with 11 total tackles, and Robertson, who had a nose for the ball from his safety position with 9 tackles, led the charge to keep the Wildcats from adding points on the board.
The score remains as is until the fourth-quarter when Cayuga scores off a 74-yard catch and run to cut the deficit in half, 28-14. Cayuga follows up with a critical onside kick attempt and appears to have recovered based on the wishful cheering from the visitor bleachers. If Cayuga recovers and then scores, the battle for 1st Place will become a war. After a prolonged search by the referees, Italy’s Tyler Vencill emerges with the ball who is congratulated by teammates for his awareness and hustle, 5:48.
With 2:05 remaining, a slashing run by Sheppard sets up a 2-yard touchdown by Bland who lowers his shoulder to run over a Cayuga defender at the goal line. The Gladiators now lead 35-14 after Roldan’s P.A.T.
Moments later, with the ball at midfield, Cayuga tries to use their passing game to generate some last minute heroics. However, Italy’s Bland, becomes the hero when he sacks the Wildcat QB and causes the ball to pop out. Zain Byers scoops up the ball on the run and rumbles 30-yards before being tackled at Cayuga’s 20-yard line.
With 0:24 remaining and the ball on the 7-yard line, Bland plows over a pair of hapless Wildcat defenders and crosses the goal line standing up to cap off Italy’s 41-14 homecoming victory after Roldan kicks thru his sixth P.A.T. kick on the night to go 6-out of-6.
With the win, the Gladiators improve to 4-4 on the season and 3-0 in district play. Coach Tindol’s troops take over sole possession of 1st place with just two district games remaining.
Coach Tindol, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator, has guided the Gladiators to three straight wins while putting over 40-points on the board in each game, outscoring Itasca, Crossroads and Cayuga 129-50 collectively. Also, the Gladiators have had back-to-back games with 200 yard rushers with Hunter Merimon’s 275 versus Crossroads and TaMarcus Sheppard with 253 yards against Cayuga.
- Overall MVP — TaMarcus Sheppard (253 Rushing yards on 18 carries, 5 tackles (3 solos), 2 punts for 58 yards)
- Offensive MVP — The entire offensive line: Kevin Roldan, Zain Byers, Kyle Fortenberry, Darol Mayberry, Cody Medrano, Tyler Vencill, Bailey Walton and tight ends Cody Boyd and Levi McBride
- Top Offensive Lineman — Darol Mayberry
- Defensive MVP — Zain Byers (9 tackles (6 solos), 1 hurry, 1 fumble recovery returned 20-yards)
- Top Defensive Lineman — Coby Bland, John Byers, Bailey Walton, Kevin Roldan, Tyler Vencill, Darol Mayberry and Zain Byers
- Special Teams MVP — Kevin Roldan (6-of-6 point-after kicks)
- Hitman — Shad Newman (11 tackles (6 solos)
- Hitman — Trevon Robertson (9 tackles (5 solos)
ITALY OFFENSIVE STATS:
|Gladiator||Carries||Rush YDS||REC||Rec YDS||Pass Comp/YDS||TD Pass||TD|
ITALY DEFENSIVE STATS:
|Z. Byers||6||3||1 (20-yards)||1|
ITALY SPECIAL TEAMS:
Welcome home alumni and special thanks to our fans, the band and the cheerleaders for displaying school pride and team spirit throughout the game, to Gary Wood and Jasenio Anderson on the tunnel crew and horn, Misty Escamilla and Mrs. Birdie at the gate, the Italy FFA, our concession stand volunteers, the chain crew, our booth crew, water boys Gary Escamilla, Clay Riddle, Cade Brewer and Isaac Garcia and to our stat squad girls Jaclynn Lewis, Bailey Eubank and Hannah Washington!