ITALY — Much like a Hollywood portrayal, the Gladiators went to battle Friday night inside their newly constructed coliseum.
And, on the legs of Kendrick Norwood, Italy escaped with a 21-14 win over a tough Blooming Grove football team — making for a perfect end to homecoming 2017 for the Gladiators and their alumni.
"We are proving to be fighters, and we are proving to be able to respond, and that is not something we can say that we have always been able to do over the last two years. And we are playing the game in a very disciplined way," said David Weaver, Italy head football coach and athletic director, on the field after the win Friday, Sept. 15.
Norwood finished the contest with 200 yards on 24 carries and two rushing touchdowns. He also completed his lone pass attempt for a 20-yard touchdown to Gary Escamilla.
"We love Kendrick Norwood. He has been a good running back for us for three years and is kind of worked his way up, and he knows, now, it's his show," Weaver said. "With that being said, our offense of line deserves a lot of credit. They clear those lanes and allow him to have the kind of night he is having."
Quarterback Tylan Wallace finished the game 2-of-4 for 13 yards and added four carries for 19 yards. Anthony Lusk ran three times for 25 yards, and Al Waits added one carry for three yards. Waits also hauled in two passes for 13 yards.
Blooming Grove totaled just 31 yards through the air but had four ball carriers run for 45 yards or more on a night when the Lions finished with 295 yards rushing.
Noah Garcia carried the football 12 times for 96 yards, while Colin Drain ran 15 times for 75 yards, Carson Rucks netted 65 yards on 10 carries, and Ceasar Camarillo averaged 15 yards-per-carry on his three totes (45 yards).
The Italy defense was led by junior Caleb Telatnyk and senior Clay Riddle with 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. Each player added a tackle for a loss. Riddle also recorded a Lion fumble caused by Adam Powell.
Italy, now 2-1 on the season, returns to the Gladiator Stadium on Friday, Sept. 22 against (2-1) Hico. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
*Additional reporting by Fred Phipps