ITALY — Games don’t often come down to the difference of a defensive score, but that’s how it worked out for the Gladiators.
Italy’s defense picked up a safety against Marlin with just over six minutes to go, and that gave the Gladiators just enough margin in the District 8-2A Div. I opener.
Italy (4-2 overall, 1-0 district) built a 14-7 lead by halftime, taking the lead on Gabriel Martinez’s 1-yard plunge late in the half.
After the Gladiators stretched the gap to 21-7 in the third quarter, Marlin (3-3, 0-1) came chopping back. Trajon Butler busted loose on a 77-yard TD jaunt, then early in the fourth quarter Desmond Woodson found the area’s leading receiver Derion Gullette on a 76-yard connection to paydirt. The PAT tied the game at 21 with 9:57 to go.
But with 6:04 to go, Woodson had to scramble in his own end zone, and Italy brought him down to go up 23-21.