Ups, downs and ties for young Gladiators at Palmer

Image: Swarming defense — Italy 7th grade wins scrimmage 14-0, 8th grade loses 28-0 and JV ties 20-20.

Swarming defense — Italy 7th grade wins scrimmage 14-0, 8th grade loses 28-0 and JV ties 20-20. (Karen Mathiowetz)

PALMER — Last Thursday night the Italy 7th grade, 8th grade and Junior Varsity traveled to Palmer to take on the Bulldogs. At the end of the night Italy came home with one victory, one loss and one tie.

7th Grade

The 7th grade Gladiators took the field in wide-eyed anticipation of things to come as they began their careers for the Gold and White. Led by the passing of Eric Carson to the sure hands of Justin Wood, the young Gladiators scored first and never gave the Bulldogs a chance to take the lead back. Tre’von Robertson set up Italy’s second score with an interception at about the 40 yard line which he returned to the 15. Wood then carried the ball on a sweep to the right to give the Gladiators a 12- 0 lead, and then carried again on the two-point try — making it 14-0.

The Gladiators played great defense throughout the game, limiting Palmer to very few total yards. The combined efforts of both sides of the ball left no question who the dominant team was. Although small in numbers, these young men look to have a promising future for Italy.

8th Grade

The 8th grade Gladiators had a much tougher night against a huge Palmer Bulldogs team. Giving up nearly 50 pounds per man on the line, the Gladiators scrapped the best they could, but wound up on the short end, 28-0. Many mistakes by the young team in Gold led to easy points for Palmer. The effort was much better for Italy in the second half, where they only gave up 6 points. A few bright spots for the Gladiators were seen in the play of linebacker Chase Hamilton, who was in on many tackles, and the effort of Tony Wooldridge and Tyvion Copeland, who shared quarterback duties. Both had several good runs in the game.

Back on the practice field the young Gladiators have gone to work on the fundamentals of the game — blocking and tackling. They attacked the two-man sled and the chutes and dummies on Monday, concentrating on footwork, intensity, and effort. On Tuesday they concentrated on tackling and defensive technique. With a renewed sense of purpose the young men in Gold have vowed to improve on their outcome from last week in the future. The results should show up this week against Malakoff.

Junior Varsity

The Junior Varsity Gladiators played their most complete game so far, battling Palmer to a 20-20 tie. The lead went back and forth several times, with neither team giving up no matter the score.

Palmer scored early on a fumble return for a touchdown. The Gladiators answered like a bolt of lightning on a 60 yard bomb from Justin Buchanan to Devonta Simmons. The Italy defense then stiffened, hitting Palmer hard and often, and forcing the ’Dogs to punt. Once again the connection from Buchanan to Simmons on a 50 yard strike put the Gladiators further out in front of their class AA foe. Palmer then fought back to tie the game at 14 all. Buchanan scored again for the Gladiators on a run over right guard to make the score 20-14, Italy.

Then strange things started to happen to the clock. Palmer ran three plays with the clock at 1:40 remaining in the game. Time was added, for some unexplained reason, during a late Palmer drive allowing the Dogs the opportunity to tie the score. The result was that instead of a hard fought victory for Italy, the Bulldogs escaped with a hometown tie.

The Italy JV has become a close-knit group of hard-working young men. They are learning to play as a team, and their attitudes and efforts have improved daily both at practice and in games. These young Gladiators are getting to play four full quarters apiece, as there are very few subs on the sideline to give breaks to each other. They are getting in better and better shape, and are bonding as a unit to meet the challenges they face. The future looks very bright for this group of athletes.