MILDRED -- The Mildred Eagles won a wild game against the Italy Gladiators 35-33 Friday night in Mildred with some late-game dramatics. The game was outstanding with the Eagles going up by two scores early only to have the Gladiators fight back in the second half to give themselves a chance to win, but the Eagles were able to pull through for the victory.
Early in the fourth quarter, Jaiden Barr for the Gladiators broke off a 60-yard touchdown run and with the extra point, the Gladiators closed the game to a 29-27 Eagle lead. The Eagles had struggled offensively in the second half, but Creed Baker put the Eagles on his back driving the Eagles down the field with runs of 16, 30, and 24 yards setting up a Preston Kindle touchdown with four minutes left in the game. Scoring the extra point would have given the Eagles a nine point advantage, effectively sealing the victory.
Instead, the Eagles committed two false start penalties before having the extra point blocked, giving the Gladiators a chance to tie.
The Gladiators drove the ball down the field scoring a touchdown with 0:06 seconds left in the game giving them the opportunity to tie. The Eagle defense held strong knocking down the pass on the 2-point conversion attempt to seal the victory.
The game started out sloppily for the Eagles. Italy was able to recover the opening kickoff when the ball took an odd bounce giving the Gladiators the ball on the Eagle 14-yard line. From there, the Jaydon Saxon was able to punch through from 2 yards out to give the Gladiators the lead.
The Eagles started their next drive on the 14-yard line. Two plays later, Baker found an opening and rushed 71 yards for the touchdown to tie the game. The Eagles then recovered an onside kick setting up a Bishop Harris 27 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
Italy was able to answer back with a 9-play drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jayden Saxon. Mildred responded with a 26-yard touchdown run by Baker on their subsequent drive giving the Eagles a 22-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Eagle defense came up big in the second quarter forcing the Gladiators to punt three times and forcing a fumble, and then Bishop Harris was able to find an opening right before halftime in the Gladiator defense and rush 69 yards for the touchdown giving the Eagles a 29-14 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, the Eagle offense was unable to find traction with the Gladiators forcing a punt and a turnover on downs, while Cahl Horn was able to score on a 5-yard touchdown run to finish an 8-play drive. With the failed 2-point conversion, the Gladiators pulled to 29-22 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which proved to be full of fireworks.
The Gladiators forced the Eagles to punt on their first drive of the fourth. On the first play of the subsequent drive, Jaden Barr raced 60 yards for the touchdown. With the extra-point, the Gladiators pulled to 29-27. After the kickoff, the Eagles took over on their 16-yard line. The Eagles had struggled to rush for most of the second half, but senior Baker took the team on his back, finding openings in the defense broke off rushes of 16, 30, and 24 yards as the Eagles marched the ball down the field. Preston Kindle punched through the go-ahead touchdown from 4 yards out giving the Eagles an 8 point advantage. The extra-point would have given the Eagles a 9 point advantage forcing the Gladiators to score twice to win. Instead, the Eagles committed two false start penalties before having the extra-point blocked on the third attempt.
This gave the Gladiators hope to tie and maybe win in overtime. After the kickoff, the Gladiators took over the ball on their 23 and drove the length of the field on 14 plays before Jaydon Saxon scored on 10-yard rush with 6 seconds left on the clock.
The Gladiators went for the tie with the 2-point conversion attempt, but Baker knocked the ball away on the Saxon pass attempt to seal the victory.
The game was dramatic and hard-fought. The Gladiators had chances to quit after the Eagles went up by two scores at half, but fought hard to come back. The Eagles made mistakes in all phases of the game but were able to fight through for the victory. It will be a learning experience as coach Duke Dalton reinforced to the Eagles after the game.
According to coach Dalton, “the difference was the defense which made some big stops in the first have giving us the two score advantage, but then we came out and couldn’t do anything offensively in the second half," he said. "They outplayed us in the second half and we had some mental mistakes, but we had a championship drive there at the very end to score. We made a blunder to give them a chance. We made some mental mistakes but we will learn from them.”
Baker paced the Eagles with 170 yards on 14 rushes and two touchdowns. Bishop Harris had 124 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Preston Kindle had 14 yards on 4 carries and a touchdown.
The Eagles travel to Kerens next week to face the Bobcats while Italy hosts Blooming Grove.