ITALY – One word could highlight this game for the Palmer Bulldogs: persistence. The word that would highlight it for the Italy Gladiators: inopportunity. 

Palmer’s persistence paid off in a 22-14 win over Italy.

For the first 16 minutes of play, after six exchanges of possession, it was still 0-0. Italy surprised everyone when it successfully went for a fourth and one early in the first quarter on its own 44. But the Gladiators went on to give the ball up three minutes later on a fourth and five pass play that ended in a sack of senior quarterback Jace Holden at the Bulldog’s 37.

In the second series of the second quarter, Wolfe broke one over the right tackle from the Italy 40 to score the first touchdown for Palmer. The extra point was good and it was a seven-point game. Persistence. The Bulldogs’ ensuing kick-off to the Gladiators’ 15-yard line resulted in an Italy return by senior running back Kyle Jackson to the Palmer 31. On the very next play Holden hit junior running back Jalarnce Lewis in the end-zone for six. Junior running back Ryheem Walker attempted a half-back pass for the 2-point conversion, but failed. That made the game 7-6.

Persistently, Wolfe moved the Bulldogs down the field in spite of excellent defensive play by Italy linebackers Walker and Lewis, as well as junior linebacker Chase Hamilton. At the Italy 24, Wolfe once again broke loose over the right side to score the next six and the extra point was good. Now the Italy Gladiators were down by eight with only 3:29 left in the first half, with the score 14-6.

Palmer’s junior wide receiver Jamie Luna punched the kick-off to the Italy 30 with Carson’s return of 15 yards to set up the Gladiators at their own 45. The ensuing Italy offensive drive stalled at the Palmer 43 with excellent defensive play of senior defensive end Jesse Swindell with less than two minutes of play. Although the Bulldogs managed eight more plays, excellent defense by Jackson, senior defensive lineman Omar Estrada, senior linebacker Ethan Saxon, junior cornerback Hayden Woods and senior free safety Devonta Simmons ended the first half.

Palmer took the opening kick-off for no gain at its36. After four plays and a penalty, Jackson intercepted a pass by Wolfe and ran it back to the 37 of Palmer. At the 10-minute mark, Italy mixed it up for five plays to the end-zone for six more points. Then Walker lined up to take the snap and sliced off the right end for a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.

Italy kicked off and appeared to recover the ball as it bounced off of a Palmer player, but because of an inadvertent whistle prior to the ball bouncing off the player, the referees decided to run the play over.

One other inopportunity for the Gladiators occurred at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Palmer fumbled on its 41, but all the referees had to conduct a meeting at midfield to determine that it was still Palmer’s ball. After as many as 49 plays, 11 exchanges of possession, at least nine penalties and excellent play from Palmer’s junior Mason Delgado and junior defensive back Hector Zamarippa, regulation ended with a 14-14 tie. Welcome to overtime.

Palmer got the ball at the 25 in OT and drove hard in three plays to reach the 16, but a flag pushed them back to the 21 with a fourth and 7. The Bulldogs called a timeout to regroup. This time sophomore wide receiver Jason Burgett completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Augie Herrea. Persistence. Wolfe took the ball around right end for the 2-point conversion. The Gladiators had their work cut out for them.

Italy took the ball at the 25 with an excellent pitch-out from Holden to Walker to the 16. Walker then took the hand-off to the left side to the 10 for a first and goal.

The next play was a game-costing inopportunity as a fumble would end the Gladiators’ shot at a comeback. They thought they had recovered it and would have another chance, but the ball had several hands on it in the pile-up. The referee decided it was Palmer’s ball and the game was over.