Chilton – The Italy Gladiators traveled to Chilton on Friday night to take on the Pirates and almost gave them more than they could handle. Chilton chalked up a 28-26 win, but the outcome would have been different if an Italy TD had not been called back due to a questionable ineligible receiver penalty.
“Our team played their hearts out,” said Head Coach Craig Bales. “We showed great improvement from last week. We made fewer mistakes on defense and played well on both sides of the ball. I am very pleased with our performance and look forward to next week.”
The Gladiators took the field ready to play. From the opening snap, they showed their fans strength, intensity, determination and heart. They proved they are not a team to be taken lightly.
On their first possession, Chilton found the end zone when Demeris Randolph darted through the Gladiator line and sprinted 40 yards across the goal line. He would score again in the final period on a 17 yard carry. Randolph was the leading rusher of the game with 210 yards on 20 carries.
Italy could not convert on 4th down and was forced to punt. Randolph threatened to strike again with a 68 yard gain in the drive, but Heath Clemons had something else in mind and failed the touchdown.
John Issac brought the Gladiator fans to their feet when he intercepted a Xavier Shaw pass intended for Devante Milam and returned it 90 yards to tie the game.
The Gladiator defense led by Zach Hernandez and Jonathan Nash forced the Pirates to turn the ball over on downs, but an Italy fumble two plays later was recovered by Cornelio Barrientos to set up their second TD of the game. Shaw (20/123) took it in from the 2 yard line and added a 2 point conversion to give the Pirates a 14-6 halftime lead.
When the Gladiators hit the field in the 2nd half, they stepped up their game. With 6:32 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Anderson hit Isaac with a 23 yard touchdown pass to reduce the Chilton lead to 2. Three plays later Chilton retaliated when Shaw sprinted 53 yards to give the Pirates a 20-12 lead.
The final period did not start good for Italy. On the 4th play of the quarter, Chilton increased their lead with Randolph’s second touchdown and 2 point conversion. With Chilton ahead by 16, the Gladiators could have given up but they became more determined than ever to hand the Pirates a defeat. Their “never say quit” attitude brought the Italy fans to their feet over and over again.
With only seven minutes remaining in the game Italy was facing a 4th and 9 on the Chilton 26 yard line. Anderson hit Clay Major for a 13 yard gain to move the chains and breathe life into the Gladiators. Four plays later they faced another difficult 4th down. Anderson kept the ball and gained enough yards for the first down. Three plays later Clay Major scored on a 1 yard run to cut the Chilton lead to 28-20. The Gladiators could see a win within their reach and they wanted it. They knew the defense had to stop the Pirates to get the ball back. Jasenio Anderson shifted the momentum Italy’s way with a tremendous hit on Devante James and on the next play caused a Shaw fumble. Zach Hernandez recovered the ball on the Chilton 34 to put Italy in a position to take the lead in the game.
Italy would face a 4th and 2 at the 26 when Anderson dug in with 5 yards to give the Gladiators a 1st down. With only 2:08 left on the clock, Anderson hit Diamond Rodgers with a 21 yard touchdown pass. Anderson’s 2 point conversion could have tied the game, but the Pirate defense stopped him short of the goal line.
Italy saw their hopes of a comeback victory slip away when James covered Italy’s onside kick. With a determination to win that the Gladiator fans had not seen in over two years, the Gladiator defense steamrolled over the Pirates to get the ball back in Anderson’s hands. On the first play, Desmond Anderson stripped the ball from Shaw and Heath Clemons recovered the fumble on the Chilton 42.
Five plays into the drive Jasenio Anderson dodged several defenders and hit Desmond Anderson with a 28 yard pass in the end zone. The Italy celebration was cut short when the officials called a penalty for an ineligible receiver down field which nullified the TD. With a 4th and 13, the Pirate defense held the Gladiators to win the game 28-26.
Jasenio Anderson led the Gladiators with 117 yards on 20 carries and 5 of 15 passes for 95 yards. Italy proved to the fans that traveled the 90 miles to watch the contest that the drive was worth the time. Italy exhibited skill on both sides of the ball and played with more heart than has been seen in several years. These players are worthy of the respect of the opposing players and the Italy fans.
Italy will host Palmer at Willis Field next Friday night at 7:30.
Players of the Game
- MVP – Clay Major
- Offense – Jasenio Anderson
- Defense – Zach Hernandez
- Block – Trent Morgan
- Thief – John Isaac
- Hit – Clay Major