At times the Red Oak Life School Mustangs showed signs of brilliance on offense, but the Italy Gladiator defense was able to stall every one of the nine Mustang drives throughout the contest to arrive at a 46-0 shutout victory.
The opening drive for the Gladiators went from their own 40 to a touchdown in 10 plays.
The drive was highlighted by 27 yards in eight running plays by running back Ryheem Walker, a key running play over the middle by running back Kyle Jackson, and an excellent 17-yard pass play from quarterback Jase Holden to Jackson over the middle.
Walker scored the touchdown on a seven-yard run with 7:36 left in the quarter. Walker added the two-point conversion with a run to the right, and the score was 8-0.
Italy’s defensive combination of two or three down lineman, a stacked linebacker field and secondary, and frequent blitzing kept the Mustangs off-guard for sustained drives all night.
Italy players like linebackers Jackson, Walker, Chase Hamilton and Ethan Saxon, cornerback Eric Carson, defensive linemen Omar Estrada, Paul Harrris, and Larry Mayberry, wreaked havoc on the Mustangs’ offense.
In addition to the overwhelming Italy defense, the Gladiator offense’s balanced attack put 46 points on the board.
At the end of the first half, behind the blocking of a tuned offensive line Italy had scored four of its five possessions.
On their second possession due to the alert play of Mustang defensive back Preston Grase, Italy’s pass intended for wide receiver Devonta Simmons was intercepted at the Mustang 35.
The Mustang subsequent drive looked promising as quarterback Cooper Spurgin hit wide receiver Michael Forde for a 29-yard pass play only to stall the drive at the Mustang 48, where punter Keith Alonzo hooked a good one some 38 yards to the Italy 14.
The first half ended with a Gladiator lead of 30-0.
The Mustang defense had several stars to prevent more Italy scoring, including defensive linemen Dante Anderson and Averil Royal, linebackers Mason Alcarez and Shawn Foulks, defensive backs Perry David and Shane Sibley.
The Mustangs showed some promise of a score with their best drive about the middle of the third quarter with a good mix of five passes and four runs to the Italy 9, completing four passes for 50 yards including one beauty to Forde for 28 yards.
On the fifth pass, rolling back, the quarterback was sacked by Italy’s Jackson at the 18, turning over the ball on a fumble.
The rest of the Mustang drives in the second half were three to five plays and then a punt, but some exciting play was evident by the Mustang passing game where wide receivers caught several of Spurgin’s passes to try to sustain drives. When you live by the pass, however, you also die by the pass.
To set up the Gladiator’s last score of the game with only 6:47 left, Italy cornerback Hayden Woods intercepted a pass at the Mustang 12-yard line setting up running back Jalarnce Lewis’ touchdown over the left side for an eight-yard scamper.