The 2015 Italy Gladiators are striving for improvement on the grid-iron this season after posting a 3-7 win/loss record last season. Needless to say, the program needed an energy boost and they have received one from first-year AD/HFC David Weaver and his enthusiastic staff.
However, change is never easy and instilling a winning attitude when wins are hard to come by at the moment can be extra challenging. Fortunately, for Gladiator fans, the fellas have not laid down their swords or tossed their shields to the side. In fact, just the opposite is happening inside the Jimmy Davis Memorial Field House and out on the practice field according to Coach Weaver.
“Despite the 0-2 start, we have had 100% commitment and attendance from the players, even on Saturdays, and Labor Day was one of our most vigorous workouts thus far. The team really pushed themselves and I couldn’t be more satisfied with their effort,” commented Coach Weaver. “The mood around here is positive and we are going to continue fighting.”
After a fairly strong showing during a week one loss to Kerens, with Italy having a chance to take the lead over the Bobcats early in the third-quarter, Italy seemed to take a step backward in week two against long-time rival Maypearl which can only be attributed to growing pains.
The Gladiators are still considered a relatively young team with many key positions being filled with freshmen and sophomores and/or players that have not participated in football for the past few years. That situation has already been upgraded under Coach Weaver with close to 50 players coming out for the program this summer and with around 27 of those taking varsity reps.
“Being as inexperienced as we are right now, especially having to learn a new system for the third time in four years for our seniors, we’ll struggle to lineup in the correct position before the snap and then we’ll have players going in the wrong direction after the snap. Some of that is to be expected but we are working hard to get everything up to speed, which includes improving our efficiency in the backfield.” Coach Weaver also added, “We are continuing to adjust our personnel as well to fit our needs. The work ethic is getting there, we just need to be more sure about what we are trying to do as a unit and gain some confidence before heading into district play.”
Players off to a solid start quarterbacks Ryan Connor and Joe Celis have both taken game snaps for Italy with both Gladiators showing flashes of greatness. Connor was Italy’s Offensive Player of the Week against Kerens. Tailback Hunter Merimon looked good against Kerens and Clay Riddle was a force on defense against Maypearl. 6’,2" Clayton Miller has performed well at receiver and gives Italy some punch in the secondary along with Fabian Cortez who plays a similar role on both sides of the ball. In week one against Kerens, Cortez was the team’s Defensive Player of the Week. Kendrick Norwood had an interception against Maypearl and a sack, David De La Hoya anchors Italy’s offensive line with Hunter Morgan handling the centering duties.
Punter Gary Escamilla was Italy Football’s Special team’s Player of the Week against Kerens, Mason Womack is proving to be a reliable blocking tight end, Micah Escamilla made several tackles against Maypearl from his defensive end position and Chasston King adds athleticism and hard-hitting ability to Italy’s secondary. Sophomore Garrett Janek has been pitching in on defense in the secondary along with Tylan Wallace who also plays receiver for the Gladiators.
Along with Merimon, Norwood and Jaray Anderson have been helping to carry the rock while Dylan “Braveheart” McCaslin leads the way from his fullback position. Austin Pittmon and Aaron Pittmon, aka Beast Brothers, add size to Italy’s steadily improving offensive line. Senior Austin Crawford, junior Elliott Worsham and sophomore Chris Davilla all have lineman duties as does Barry Grant. Senior Jorge Galvan and junior Elijah Garcia round out a plethora of tight ends along with Micah Escamilla and Womack.
So we’re still on the rise but we have strength in numbers, a dedicated coaching staff, committed players and fan base that believes! It’s a process, but hopefully the Gladiators will take three-steps forward against Blooming Grove on Friday, September 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the Grove. — WE BELIEVE!!!