ITALY - The Italy Gladiators (1-1) hosted the Axtell Longhorns (0-1) for Homecoming 2007. A late fourth quarter touchdown sealed the 21-18 win and snapped an 11 game IHS losing streak.
The Gladiators found themselves in a tough defensive battle, but found enough offensive power to prevail.
“This win feels fantastic,” Coach Griffin of the Gladiators said. “The kids finally understand what it means to play as a team. They deserve it.”
The Gladiators received the opening kickoff only to give the ball back to the Longhorns after a Jacob Valdez interception.
The longhorns would have excellent field position starting at the Gladiator’s 34-yard line. Three consecutive runs by senior Jimmy Lilly set up a fourth and two situation.
Quarterback Michael Stranacher would go to the air, to find open receiver Chris Stephens for an eight yard gain.
The drive was capped off when Stranacher would find Ryan Lee in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown reception. The missed extra point gave Axtell the early 6-0 lead.
Italy started its second offensive series at midfield. After Detrick Green gained a yard on first down and three on second down, but costly fumble for a turnover gave Axtell the ballon its own 40. The Gladiator defense held, however, to force Axtell to punt.
The remainder of the first quarter would see the teams exchanging.
Late in the second quarter the Gladiators finally drew blood. Green broke free for a twenty-yard run followed by a twenty-five run by J.R. Hill.
Axtell was penalized for a face mask violation to setup Italy at the six-yard line for first and goal.
Jon Jon Thompson was shut down for no gain. Green rambled straight up the middle for the six-yard touchdown. Josh Howard would sail the extra-point through the up rights to give the Gladiators a 7-6 lead.
Axtell fired back at Italy.
Stranacher would take matters into his own hands by completing several passes to Thomas Shields. Axtell sent Weston Popham up the middle from the three, but he came up a yard short of the goal line.
Stranacher then took off around the left end, stretching his arms across the goal line for the score. Nathan Germany would attempt a two point conversion pass but would batted down to the sod by Hill. With two minutes remaining in the first half the score stood 12-7 in favor of Axtell going into the halftime intermission.
With 4:25 remaining to play in the third quarter, the Longhorns mounted a 76-yard drive. Stranacher led his team to the Italy 11, where he called his own number to push the ball across the goal line. Strancher would also try to run in the two point conversion, but he was met by senior Sam Norcross before he could convert. Axtell held an 18-7 lead.
The teams battle back and forth until late in the fourth quarter. Diamond Rogers would light a spark under the Gladiators after he ran for a 20-yard pickup. Green then stutter stepped his way into the end zone from 29-yards out. Howard’s kick was good as Italy closed the gap to 18-14 with 2:40 left of play.
After the ensuing kickoff Italy put up an impressive defensive stand.
Anderson threw a strike to Hill for a lightening quick 68-yard gain. Italy set up shop on Axtell’s 11 yard-line, but was turned away while in the red zone.
Italy’s staunch defense held again to give the ball back to it’s offense on the Gladiator 40.
A pair of runs by Green netted eight yards. After moving the chains, on second down Anderson would hook up with John Isaac for the touch down to seal the win. Howard’s kick made the score 21-18.
Axtell was not finished. Quickly moving into the Italy end of the field. Finally, with only eight seconds remaining, Stranacher put the fear into the Italy fans.
He dropped back and let the ball sail, coming down in the arms of Lilly who fell to the turf one yard shy of the Gladiator goal. Italy travels to Palmer Friday for a cross county matchup. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.