Italy — The Italy Gladiator Football program has once again began its quest for trophy case gold with two-a-day workouts beginning this week. As a patchy Willis Field begins to regrow, one strip of sod at a time, so do the Gladiators who will rely on some young but talented players to fill in a few vacated spots along the varsity ranks.
Second-year Athletic Director and Head Coach Charles Tindol and his staff have been cultivating a group of players that are willing to work hard and are thirsty for knowledge. Italy’s football roots are solid so with each drill, every lesson and the occasional water breaks, the seeds for a fourth-straight district title are already beginning to blossom.
The varsity backfield will rely on three returning starters from last season, plus one. Hunter Merimon, Coby Jeffords and Levi McBride will help make a dent for Italy’s running attack, taking pressure off sophomore quarterback, Joe Celis. Celis saw playing time as a freshman but primarily performed on special teams. Celis is now the young gun of the Gladiators and has worked hard this summer to improve his throwing accuracy and range.
On the receiving end of those passes will be veterans Ryan Connor, Cody Boyd, Clayton Miller, John Escamilla and McBride. A few others could play catch with Celis, as well, but the lineups and rosters are still undetermined.
Upfront, sophomore Beast-Brothers Aaron Pittmon and Austin Pittmon will use their twin powers to replace all-state offensive tackle Darol Mayberry and guard Cody Medrano. Third-year senior center, Kyle Fortenberry is in place with Colin Newman, Tyler Vencill and John Byers ready to solidify the right side of the line. Newman, Vencill and Byers each received game experience last season making for some quick learners this time around as they eagerly communicate with new assistant line coach Jon Proud and second-year line coach Brandon Gansky.
Defensively, sophomore David DeLaHoya may be the replacement for two-time all-state defensive-end Zain Byers and senior Cody Boyd is being considered for the opposite side to replace Bailey Walton who split time with Kevin Roldan at the the right end position. John Byers will anchor the line’s interior along with Colin Newman and Tyler Vencill. Move-in Justin Robbins could become a part of this rotation.
Fortenberry, Merimon and Jeffords are backers while Connor, Celis, Boyd and McBride will patrol the secondary. Still, the season is young and Tindol may decide to replant a position, or two, within his defensive garden at any point….no matter what the Farmer’s Almanac might suggest.
Along with Tindol, Gansky and Proud, assistant coaches Bobby Campbell, Jon Cady and Gladiator legend Jackie Cate will round out this season’s coaching staff. Good luck to all the players and coaches on the upcoming season!!!