Meridian — Despite another strong performance by Gladiator senior Coby Jeffords, who rushed for 25 times for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns, Italy let their second district win slip away in the second-half against the Meridian Yellowjackets. A pair of late interceptions by Meridian was enough to finish off Italy’s hopes of a last minute rally.
Italy struck first when Jeffords crossed the goal line from 1-yard out to put the Gladiators up 7-0 after David De La Hoya’s extra-point kick split the uprights. Italy held their lead until the 8:23 mark of the second-quarter when Meridian scored from 1-yard out to make the score 7-6. The Yellowjackets converted their conversion pass to go up 8-7.
With 1:46 remaining in the second, Meridian scored again with a 30-yard pass completion. Again the Yellowjackets connect on a conversion pass to increase their advantage 16-7.
The Gladiators were forced to punt but the kick glanced off the foot of the Meridian return man allowing Italy’s John Byers to recover the live ball, giving Italy good field position. With 0:46 remaining in the quarter, Jeffords ran it in from 17-yards out to tighten the game 16-13. Kyle Fortenberry snapped to Celis who was the holder and De La Hoya kicked the point-after try thru to make the score 16-14. Meridian maintained their 2-point edge going into the halftime break.
Meridian is the first to score in the third-quarter thanks to a 58 yard run. The Yellowjackets ran the ball in for the 2-point conversion to go up 24-14 with 8:36 remaining in the third.
The Gladiators stole a bit of the momentum back when Jeffords crossed the goal line from 4-yards out for his third rushing TD of the contest. De La Hoya’s kick sailed off the mark but Italy was keeping match close, 24-20. 5:10 remained in the quarter.
The tide quickly turned back into the favor of the Yellowjackets at the 2:04 mark when a rushing touchdown from 1 yard out gave Meridian a 30-20 lead. The conversion pass attempt failed, but the damage was done.
As the buzzer sounded to end the the third-quarter, Meridian rushed up the middle for their fourth touchdown of the game. The conversion pass failed but the Yellowjackets carried a 36-20 advantage as the battle moved into the fourth-quarter.
With 4:23 to play, the Gladiators get a spark when freshman receiver Kyle Tindol who converts a short pass from Celis into an 18-yard touchdown completion after breaking a tackle. With the score 36-26, the Gladiators desperately needed to convert a 2-point try to stay within a touchdown, and a conversion, of the Yellowjackets. Celis completed a pass to Jeffords out of the backfield but a diving effort by Jeffords at the goal line came up short and Italy continued trailing by ten.
Despite long kickoff returns by Fabian Cortez and Clayton Miller, and Celis passing for over 100 yards for the first time this season with 107, time ran out on the Gladiator comeback effort. A third Interception by Meridian resulted in one last touchdown by the Yellowjackets to seal the win. The point-after kick failed but Meridian improves to 2-0 in district play with a 48-26 win over the Gladiators. Italy is now 1-1 in district play.
The Gladiators will no doubt be extra fired up for their next outing against visiting Dawson with Italy celebrating their homecoming this week. The district matchup with Dawson will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Willis Field.
- Overall MVP — Clayton Miller (5 tackles, 4 assists, 1 reception for 13 yards, 2 kick returns for 46 yards)
- Offensive MVP — Coby Jeffords (121 rushing yards on 25 carries and 3 touchdowns)
- Defensive MVP — Kyle Fortenberry (11 solo tackles, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss)
- Offensive Line MVP — J.T. Escamilla
- Defensive Line MVP — Ty Fernandez
- Special Teams MVP — Gary Escamilla (3 punts for 111 yards)
- Hitman — Joe Celis (8 tackles, 2 assists)
|Joe Celis(8)||14/55||9-of-15/107/1||1 Pass|
Special Teams Stats:
|David De La Hoya(56)||2-of-3 Kicks/2|