Life Charter found it difficult to contain Justin Buchanan Thursday night at Willis field. Buchanan racked up 76 yards rushing and 192 yards passing. With only 12 players, Italy had their work cut out for them and would have to play both ways with little or no relief. They handled the challenge and proved they would do whatever it takes to bring home the victory.
On the first play of the game, Italy’s Jase Holden recovered a Life fumble to give his team good field position. Six plays later Buchanan scored on a 2-yard keeper. Buchanan hit Holden for the two-point conversion to give Italy an 8-0 lead.
Life was forced to punt after three false start penalties. Buchanan hit Tavarus Griffin with a 35-yard pass. He added 18 yards on a keeper then hit Corrin Frazier with a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Italy a 14-0 lead.
Life capitalized on a six play 78-yard drive when #3 scored on a 15-yard scamper. Billy Russell added two on the conversion to cut Italy’s lead to six.
Italy retaliated on the first play of their next possession when Buchanan hit Devonta Simmons with a 43-yard pass to give the Gladiators a 20-8 lead.
With pressure from Brandon Souder and Ryan Ashcraft, Life went three and out. Italy’s next drive was cut short when Life recovered an Italy fumble. Russell hit Brian Hoskins with a 26-yard pass. Three plays later he hit him again with a 28-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 20-14.
Italy gave the ball back to Life when #33 intercepted a Buchanan pass intended for Simmons. Brandon Souder stepped up and stuffed Tito Alvarez to stop the drive as the first half ended.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Buchanan took the kick, sprinted 24 yards on the return, then a hit by the defense caused him to fumble. A Life recovery set up their next touchdown. A five play, 44-yard drive hit its mark when #3 scored from 14 yards out. Russell added two on the conversion to give life their first lead in the game 22-20.
Life tried an onside kick, but Ryan Ashcraft covered it quickly giving Italy possession. #3 intercepted a Buchanan pass intended for Holden and sprinted untouched 95 yards into the end zone. Italy dodged a bullet when the play was called back due to a Life penalty.
On the very next play Buchanan passed to Holden again, but this time it resulted in a 10-yard touchdown giving the Gladiators the lead again 26-22.
Life was threatening to score again when the Gladiator defense took control. Brandon Souder stuffed Russell for a 12-yard loss. On the next play, Kyle Jackson sacked Russell forcing Life to punt.
On three plays, Buchanan hit Jackson for 20 yards, Holden for 17 yards and then hit Jackson again, this time with a 22-yard touchdown pass with :31 left in the game. Italy held on to win the game 32-22.