Gladiators show improvement but injuries hard to overcome versus Blooming Grove

Image: Italy’s Aaron Pittmon(72) and Austin Pittmon(65) bust out of the tunnel to help lead their Gladiator teammates onto Willis Field and into battle against Blooming Grove.

Italy’s Aaron Pittmon(72) and Austin Pittmon(65) bust out of the tunnel to help lead their Gladiator teammates onto Willis Field and into battle against Blooming Grove. (Barry Byers)

Italy — The Italy Gladiators showed much improvement during their first home game of the year against the visiting Blooming Grove Lions. After the raising of the flag by Italy FFA members Bailey Eubank, Jaclynn Lewis, Brayden Schramm and Ty Windham, Gladiator captains Cody Boyd, Kyle Fortenebrry, John Byers and Colin Newman greeted the Lion captains at midfield. The ceremonial coin toss followed and then it was game on!

Italy’s improvement showed early, particularly on defense and especially against the pass, with safety Ryan Connor and cornerback Clayton Miller leading a harder-hitting defensive unit for the Gladiators. A jolting blow by Connor broke up a pass in the endzone and Miller nearly picked off two BG pass attempts.

Defensive linemen John Byers and Ty Fernandez shutdown a screen pass try by the Lions and Levi McBride was solid in his cornerback coverage. Fabian Cortez is becoming an impact player for the Gladiator secondary as well. With Italy’s pass defense much improved, the Lions were forced to rely on their run game more and more. That was quickly proving treacherous for the Lions, however, with linebacker Coby Jeffords violently form tackling a BG back in the hole on one play and with fellow senior linebacker Kyle Fortenberry all over the field Friday night. A first-quarter goal line stand by the Gladiators resulted in a field goal by the Lions, who then led 3-0.

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An early leg injury to Fernandez opened the door for another BG score as the Lions led 10-0 after the first-quarter and then 24-0 by halftime. Fortunately, Fernandez was able to return, but soon after, senior tailback Hunter Merimon injured his leg and was out for the remainder of the game. Senior linemen Colin Newman suffered a season ending injury last week against Maypearl, all injuries that the Gladiators could do without at this point.

The Gladiator Regiment Marching Band and Flag Corp entertained home fans with drum major Alexis Sampley and assistant drum major Vanessa Cantu splitting time atop the director’s stand. After their performance, the band was honored at halftime when Italy ISD Superintendent Jaime Velasco presented director Jesus Perez, assistant director David Graves and band representatives Reagan Adams, Madison Washington, Whitney Wolaver, Alexis Sampley and Vanessa Cantu with a framed bronze metal display to commemorate their accomplishment this summer while competing in the State Honor Band contest.

2014-2015 Gladiator Regiment Band:
Band Member Section Section Title
Reagan Adams Woodwind/Percussion Quartermaster
Tatum Adams Woodwind/Percussion
Blake Brewer Woodwind/Percussion
Cade Brewer Woodwind/Percussion
Sarah Burrow Woodwind/Percussion Flag Corp
Vanessa Cantu Woodwind/Percussion Assistant Drum Major
Ryan Connor Brass
Austin Crawford Woodwind/Percussion
Emily Cunningham Brass
Kayla Cunningham Woodwind/Percussion Flag Corp
Paige Cunningham Woodwind/Percussion Flag Corp
Kylee Dabney Woodwind/Percussion Flag Corp
Trevor Davis Woodwind/Percussion
David DeLaHoya Brass
Kyle Dodd Brass
Cassidy Gage Brass
Jorge Galvan, JR. Brass
Elijah Garcia Brass
Isaac Garcia Woodwind/Percussion
Noeli Garcia Woodwind/Percussion
Zoe Hall Woodwind/Percussion Flag Corp
Ty Hamilton Brass
Marlen Hernandez Woodwind/Percussion
Jenna Holden Woodwind/Percussion
Amber Hooker Brass
Michael Hughes Woodwind/Percussion
Rachel Huskins Woodwind/Percussion
Garrett Janek Brass
Benjamin Latimer Brass
Sarah Levy Woodwind/Percussion
Byron Lusk, II Brass
Anthony Lusk, JR. Brass
April Lusk Woodwind/Percussion
Stevan Martinez Brass
Alexandria Minton Felder Woodwind/Percussion
John Morgan Brass
Christopher Munoz Brass
Christy Murray Woodwind/Percussion
Karley Nelson Woodwind/Percussion
Kirby Nelson Brass
Kendrick Norwood Brass
Andrew Oldfield Woodwind/Percussion
Isidro Perez Brass
Annie Perry Woodwind/Percussion
Lillie Perry Brass
Adam Powell, JR Brass
Jennifer Ramirez Woodwind/Percussion
Noah Ramirez Woodwind/Percussion
Brycelen Richards Woodwind/Percussion
Lorena Rodriguez Woodwind/Percussion
Antonia Salazar Woodwind/Percussion
Pedro Salazar Brass
Alexis Sampley Woodwind/Percussion Drum Major
Cassie Shook Woodwind/Percussion
Stockard Smithwick Woodwind/Percussion
Juan Suaste Brass
Jillian Varner Woodwind/Percussion
Ecclesia Velasco Woodwind/Percussion
Kirsten Viator Woodwind/Percussion
Madison Washington Brass Brass Captain
Brenya Williams Woodwind/Percussion
Jacob Wiser Brass
Whitney Wolaver Woodwind/Percussion Drumline Captain
Hunter Wood Brass
Elliott Worsham
Band Director — Jesus Perez
Assistant Band Director — David Graves
Color Guard Sponsor — Denise Graves

With AD/Head coach Charles Tindol forced to rely on younger players to fill the roster, the Gladiators are welcoming their upcoming bye week to regroup and hopefully recover. Especially after McBride sustained a concussion after being tackled out-of-bounds in the second half.

The Gladiators still managed some positives in the passing game with sophomore quarterback Joe Celis at the helm. Celis took some shots toward the endzone with McBride just missing a grab off his fingertips after laying out for the catch. Another try was off target to an open Cody Boyd but the senior tight end eventually snagged one from Celis in the fourth for a 36-yard catch-and-run. When asked how many yards he thought the play covered, Boyd replied, “I’m not sure. It seemed like forever. And then I was tackled,” he grinned as he walked away.

Freshmen Kyle Tindol, Clay Riddle and Kendrick Norwood continue to take plenty of varsity reps with all three participating in all three phases of the game. Sophomore brothers Aaron Pittmon and Austin Pittmon are receiving more defensive reps and senior John Escamilla did what he could on both sides of the ball despite playing in pain.

Kudos to cheerleaders Kelsey Nelson, Britney Chambers, K’Breona Davis, Halee Turner, Kirby Nelson, Annie Perry, Brooke DeBorde, Ashlyn Jacinto, Jozie Perkins, Zac Mercer, mascot Noeli Garcia and Washington who kept on cheering and to the players who kept on playing.

In the end, key injuries slowed the Gladiator momentum down and the Lions went on to win 48-0. The Gladiators enter their bye week with an 0-3 regular season record but hope to come out of it refreshed and raring to go for district play.

The Gladiators will begin district at home against the Frost Polar Bears on Friday, September 26, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Gladiator(#) Rush/Yds Pass/Comp/Yds KR/Yds Rec/Yds
Joe Celis(8) 11/32 3/12/42 1/0
Kendrick Norwood(4) 13/57 1/20 1/2
Hunter Merimon(3) 4/9 1/20
Coby Jeffords(10) 7/32
Levi McBride(1) 3/16 1/25
Kyle Tindol(12) 1/0 1/20
Cody Boyd(15) 1/36
Clayton Miller(6) 1/4

Tindol’s Trophies:

  • Overall MVP — Coby Jeffords (Def: 5 tackles, 4 assists/Off: 7 carries, 32 yards, 4.5 Ave.)
  • Defensive MVP — Ryan Connor (5 tackle, 2 assists)
  • Offensive MVP — Kendrick Norwood (13 carries, 57 yards, 4.3 Avg.)
  • Special Teams MVP — Levi McBride (5 punts for 142 yards, 28.4 Ave.)
  • Offensive Line MVP — John Escamilla
  • Defensive Line MVP — Ty Fernandez
  • Hitman — Joe Celis

Go Gladiators!

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