Wortham — The Italy Gladiators overcome an early touchdown by the Wortham Bulldogs to emerge victorious in the final moments of their district duel last Friday night.
It was another classic battle between our two towns with plenty of hankies flying and neither side willing to back down. After Italy’s senior tailback Coby Jeffords caught a 12 yard pass from quarterback Joe Celis, Jeffords edged the nose of the ball across the goal line, to make the score 7-6 before intermission. A heated exchange occurred between the two locker rooms during halftime with both changing areas in close proximity to each other. But it was no harm no foul with the zebra stripes’ intervening to keep the peace.
The skirmish worked against Wortham, however, as the Bulldogs mistakingly awoke the sleeping giants in gold and white. The second half was almost completely dominated by the Gladiators who were ticked off and proved it on the scoreboard. A 50 yard run by Coby Jeffords, who carried 17 times for 156 yards rushing, put Italy in business at Wortham’s 4-yard line. Joe Celis used a quarterback keeper to sneak the ball into the endzone for the go ahead touchdown at the 10:52 mark of the fourth-quarter. Celis then passed to Kyle Tindol for the 2-point conversion to give Italy a crucial 14-7 lead which was ultimately the final score.
Defensively, Italy’s senior safety Jack Hernandez, Clayton Miller and Joe Celis each each intercepted Bulldog passes while gang tackling by the Gladiators held the Bulldog running backs in check. Hernandez returned his pick 33 yards, Miller returned his pick 18 yards and Celis returned his pick 28 yards. Freshman tackle Clay Riddle was active in the trenches to record 5 solo tackles and 3 assists to help lead Italy’s defense.
Senior defensive end Cody Boyd recorded three sacks in the fourth to help the Gladiators secure the much needed victory over Wortham, keeping the playoff hopes alive for Italy. Italy’s defensive performance was punctuated by a violent tackle from junior outside linebacker Hunter Merimon who closed out on a Bulldog receiver and then lifted him high in the air before slamming backwards onto the unforgiven surface.
Kudos to Italy’s offensive line with Ty Fernandez, Sam Corley, Kyle Fortenberry, John Escamilla, David De La Hoya, Aaron Pittmon and Riddle. O-linemen John Byers, Austin Pittmon and Colin Newman were out with injuries.
We need Gladiator Nation at Willis Field tonight for a must win for the Gladiators who take on Dallas Gateway. In fact, Italy must win by 18-points to make the playoffs. It is Senior Night as well with final senior walk taking place after the game.
Tindol’s Trophies vs. Wortham:
- Overall MVP — Joe Celis
- Defensive MVP — Clay Riddle
- Offensive MVP — Coby Jeffords
- Offensive Line MVP — Ty Fernandez
- Defensive Line MVP — Cody Boyd
- Special Teams MVP — Clayton Miller