Kerens — The Italy Gladiators were on the short end of their season opener against the Kerens Bobcats Friday Night in Kerens. Despite a courageous effort from Italy’s sophomore quarterback Joe Celis who suffered a constant barrage of hungry Bobcats while in the pocket.
With Italy’s revamped starting offensive line returning one starter from last season in senior center Kyle Fortenberry, the Kerens defense flowed recklessly to the ball as Celis struggled to keep his head above the green wave of rushers. Celis did manage to complete a few passes with one to fullback Cory Jeffords for 10-yards and a first down and another to receiver Cody Boyd for 8-yards. For the most part, unfortunately, Italy’s offense remained grounded with senior tailback Hunter Merimon held to just 11 yards rushing on 10 carries and Jeffords with only 10 yards on 5 carries.
A bright spot for the Gladiators was elusive freshman tailback Kendrick Norwood who made the most of his carries to finish with 6 rushes for 31 yards. Other freshman standouts for Italy were Clay Riddle, a Gladiator legacy following the path of his father Curtis Riddle and uncle Clint Riddle, and Kyle Tindol who is the son of Gladiator head coach Charles Tindol. Riddle played well in all three phases while Kyle Tindol put in work on special teams, on defense and had 2 carries in the contest.
Speaking of special teams, senior superhuman John Escamilla may be an undersized nose tackle but he came up big for Italy with 3 blocked P.A.T. kicks. One was nullified by an offsides penalty charged to the Gladiators but at least Escamilla kept a couple of points off the Kerens’ side of the scoreboard which already had plenty. Senior newcomer Ty Fernandez also gave a strong showing in his 384 pound debut as a Gladiator as both an offensive guard and a defensive tackle.
In the end, Italy’s players never quit trying but 6 Italy turnovers paved the way a for 54-0 Kerens victory. A quick glance up to the stands, however, revealed Gladiator fans with plenty of spirit and little worry as the Gladiator Regiment Band played and with the cheerleaders never wavering in their support of their guys in gold. Italy has began the last few pre-seasons with lackluster win/loss records before putting it all together in time for district play. There is still belief that this year’s team can do the same. WE BELIEVE!!!
Italy will try to regroup this coming Friday night, September 5, against our long-time rival, the Maypearl Panthers. The game will be played in Maypearl and begins at 7:30 p.m. The Gladiators lead the rivalry with overall 20-5-1 record.
Tindol’s Trophies — vs. Kerens:
Overall MVP — Kyle Fortenberry & Joe Celis
Offensive MVP — Hunter Merimon
Defensive MVP — Coby Jeffords
Special Teams MVP — John Escamilla & Levi McBride
Top Offensive Lineman — Ty Fernandez
Top Defensive Lineman — John Byers
Hitman — Clayton Miller