Italy — Friday night marked the final home game for the Italy Gladiator senior football players, cheerleaders and band members who were determined to finish their last home game with a district championship clenching win, plenty of school spirit and on a high note heading into the playoffs. By games end, Senior Night 2013 was one for our memory banks with all the above goals checked off.
Before the game, the senior football players were escorted by family members along with senior cheerleaders Taylor Turner and Jessica Garcia. Band members JoeMack Pitts and Emily Stiles were also escorted by family members with all the seniors receiving gift bags and all the mothers receiving a rose.
With the Gladiators locked in a three-way tie for 1st place with Cayuga and Friday night challenger, the Kerens Bobcats, Italy AD and head football coach, Charles Tindol, had his team primed for the finish with senior quarterback TaMarcus Sheppard settled as the offense’s primary weapon.
Sheppard didn’t have to carry the entire weight of the moment solely on his shoulders. Tindol also force fed the Bobcats some bland tasting mud, junior tailback Coby Bland, that is, who powered over and thru the defenseless Kerens defense on his way to 83 rushing yards on 11 carries and 1 touchdown. Senior fullback Shad Newman did the dirty work while Bland, Sheppard and Tyler Anderson followed the senior wrecking ball up and down the field. Senior Justin Wood also put in time as a blocking back.
The heart of Italy’s offense pumps behind the I T A L Y stretched across the chests of Italy’s experienced line that consists primarily of four seniors Zain Byers, Darol Mayberry, Cody Medrano and Kevin Roldan along with junior center Kyle Fortenberry who handled the muddy snapping conditions like the two-year varsity veteran that he is. Backups Bailey Walton, also a senior, and Tyler Vencill, a junior, have helped round out Italy’s heavies.
In reference to the skill of Italy’s front line, line coach Wayne Rowe had this to say, “There’s nothing these guys haven’t seen. Once they got a handle on the new system, our offense really began to move forward.”
Defensively, Byers, Walton, Bland and tackles Colin Newman, Mayberry, Vencill and Robertson led the containment efforts against the speed of the Bobcats. Tackle John Byers, a junior, started the game but exited early with an injury flare up. The forced turnovers by Italy proved to be the difference with junior cornerback Cody Boyd, sophomore cornerback Ryan Connor and Sheppard, at linebacker, each intercepting Bobcat passes, with Sheppard returning his pluck 50-yards for a Gladiator touchdown.
Senior receiver Trevon Robertson sent a message early with a 56 yard gain down the Italy sideline to the Bobcat 7-yard line. Masterful seal blocks by Byers and Roldan gave Robertson the edge who continued running thanks to two-for-one block by Bland and downfield blocks by Levi McBride and Cody Boyd.
Three plays later, Sheppard ran the ball in for a touchdown from 5 yards out thanks to Mayberry who opened a lane to put Italy up 6-0. Fortenberry, snapped to Anderson, who held for Roldan, who kicked in the point-after to make the score 7-0.
With 10:08 remaining in the second-quarter, Bland muscled his way into the endzone from short distance to increase Italy’s lead, 13-0. Roldan’s kick went thru the uprights to make the score 14-0.
After Medrano recovered a Roldan kickoff that was bobbled by the Bobcats, the Gladiators began to distance themselves when Sheppard crossed over the threshold from 3 yards out to increase Italy’s lead to 20-0 at the 7:36 mark before halftime. The slick ball helps botch the point-after kick attempt but Roldan falls on the ball with Bobcats drawing near. Fortenberry, Anderson and Roldan had successfully booted in 13 P.A.T.s over the course of three games before the streak came to an end.
Boyd intercepts a Bobcat pass but the Gladiator offense is unable to progress the ball across mid-field and opts to punt it back over to Kerens. The Bobcats work their way into Gladiator territory and then reach the end zone from 13 yards out to make a dent, 20-7.
Robertson returns the ensuing kickoff 20 yard to Italy’s own 44-yard line. Moments later, Robertson catches a short pass from Sheppard but then turns it into a gain of 25 yards to the Bobcat 30-yard line with Medrano and Fortenberry teeing off on defenders downfield. Fortunately for Kerens, the half expires before Italy can do any more damage.
The Gladiator Regiment Marching Band and Color Guard members were unable to march on the muddy field but their halftime performance didn’t miss a beat. Seniors Pitts and Stiles performed side-by-side during the routine as they beamed with pride knowing this was their final home game as well.
After Roldan kicks off to begin the second-half, Kerens drives across midfield but are unable to move the sticks with a pass on 4th down that dropped incomplete. Italy took over on downs at their own 35-yard line. Three plays in, Bland hits a gaping hole in stride before being forced down at the Bobcat 16-yard after a gain of 32 yards. Credit lead back Anderson and Mayberry at left tackle who executed their blocks at the second level to spring Bland. The combo of Anderson leading for Bland helped position the ball on the 3-yard line of Kerens but the drive, ultimately, ends there after an incomplete pass into the end zone of 4th down.
Kerens takes over but nearly gives up a safety when Walton wraps up the Bobcat QB who gets rid of the ball at the last second to avoid giving up the 2-points. Working out of the end zone, Byers contains the roll out which forces the enemy’s quarterback to throw deep. Sophomore cornerback Ryan Connor makes a beautiful over the shoulder catch for Italy’s second INT of the game.
Italy’s defense was stellar throughout. Linebackers Shad Newman, Fortenberry, Bland, Sheppard, Medrano and Wood helping to shutdown a potentially high-scoring Bobcat team.
From the Kerens 42-yard line, a catch-and-run by Robertson advances the ball to the Bobcat twenty. A couple of plays later, Sheppard follows Bland under a kick out block by Mayberry to swirl his way into the end zone. Sheppard gives Italy a 26-7 advantage. The point-after kick misses wide.
Roldan kicks it deep and Kerens tries to generate some offense. A few plays in, however, Sheppard capped off the scoring when he picked off a pass, while playing outside linebacker, and then sprinted 50 yards to the end zone for the pick-six. Roldan ends the game with his second made P.A.T. kick to bring the final count to 33-7.
Anderson took over at quarterback late in the fourth-quarter with Wood becoming the primary ball carrier for Italy.
The JV Gladiators helped to finish off the game with David De La Hoya, Kenneth Norwood, Jr., and Joe Celis recording 1 tackle each and Fabian Cortez recording 2 tackles. Ty Windham had a chance for a pick with Eli Garcia and Hunter Ballard helping in pass coverage. Aaron Pittmon, Austin Pittmon, Samuel Corley, Austin Crawford, Dylan McCasland and Elliott Worsham also got a taste of varsity action.
With the win, the Gladiators claim the district championship outright after posting a 5-0 district record, win at least a share of the title for the third year in a row, earn a bye and an automatic bi-district championship, return to the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season and allow the seniors to win their final home game in memorable fashion.
Congratulations to the following senior Italy Gladiator players and we thank each of you for all your hard work and dedication. Your teams will certainly be remembered with your accomplishments becoming a part of Gladiator lore:
- #3 Trevon Robertson
- #4 Justin Wood
- #8 Reynaldo Salas
- #10 TaMarcus Sheppard
- #11 Tyler Anderson
- #25 Shad Newman
- #50 Zain Byers
- #54 Bailey Walton
- #58 Darol Mayberry
- #60 Kevin Roldan
- #75 Cody Medrano
- # 88 Kyle Machovich
- Special Teams MVP — Cody Medrano
- Overall MVP — Tre Robertson
- Offensive MVP — Coby Bland
- Top Offensive Lineman — Darol Mayberry
- Defensive MVP — Bailey Walton
- Top Defensive Lineman — Zain Byers
- Hitman — Coby Bland
ITALY OFFENSIVE STATS:
|Gladiator||Carries||Rush YDS||REC/REC YDS||Pass Comp/YDS||TD Pass||TD|
|Bland||11||83 (7.5)||1 (Rushing|
|Sheppard||22||102 (4.6)||2/5/45||3 (Rushing|
- Total Rushing Yards: 50 carries for 328 yards and 4 TDs
- Total Passing Yards: 3-of-8 for 64 Yards
- Total Offensive Yards: 58 plays for 392 yards and 4 rushing TDs
ITALY DEFENSIVE STATS:
|De La Hoya||1|
ITALY SPECIAL TEAMS:
|Gladiator||Punt/YDS||PAT||KO Return/YDS||Onside Recovery||Points|
“I would like to thank the coaching staff, Italy school administration, teachers and workers at the school, and especially Gladiator Nation for supporting these kids all year with many of our games in inclement weather. Thru it all, you never gave up on us coaches or these Italy Gladiator football players. I’ve never worked at a school that had this much support throughout the town. Thank you.” — AD/HFC Charles Tindol
As an automatic bi-district champion, Italy has a bye this week but will play their first-round Area playoff game on Friday, November 22 with the location, gate prices and game time TBA.