ITALY – The Maypearl Panthers and the Italy Gladiators stepped on the field Friday night to kick off the 2009 season. Friends off the field, but opponents between the white lines the Panthers defeated Italy by one-point, 26-25.

Italy received the ball first but was unable to move it against the tough Maypearl defense. On the Panthers’ first possession they drove 68-yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Maypearl scored on an 8-yard pass from Conner Vaughan to Layne Compston and took a 6-0 after the missed extra point.

Italy answered back with Jasenio Anderson. Anderson led the Gladiators down the field to score with 1:47 left in the first quarter.

Tied at six the Panthers found the end zone next. Behind great protection from the offensive line Vaughan scored on a 17-yard run to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead after DJ Crownover ran in the two-point conversion.

Each team turned the ball over before the half as the score on the board at the half read 14-6.

Maypearl extended its lead to 20-6 in the second half on a 76-yard run by Crownover. Italy blocked the extra point attempt.

In the fourth quarter the Gladiators rallied back.

Anderson completed passes of 59 and 25 yards on the drive to cut the Panther lead to 20-13.

Italy’s defense held the Panthers at bay and Anderson took the field again  for Italy.

Completing several long passes on the drive Anderson found Heath Clemons for a 35-yard touchdown to make the score 20-19 after the failed two-point attempt.

Vaughan used the protection upfront by Austin Weatherford and the rest of the line to score on another long run. He scored on a 25-yard run with 1:46 left in the game to give the Panthers a 26-19 lead.

Italy was not finished.

The Gladiators drove down the field and scored on a pass from Anderson to Clemons. The extra point attempt was unsuccessful and the score stood at 26-25.

Compston grabbed the Italy onside kick attempt to end the game with a victory for Maypearl.

Up next for the Panthers will be Blooming Grove. Italy will host Chilton on Friday.