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(Photos courtesy Italy ISD Athletics/Madison Thompson and Itzayanna DeLaHoya)

Italy dominates DeLeon in 2A area championship, faces No. 3 Tolar in regional semis

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

GRANBURY — A second-half offensive explosion handily crowned the Italy Gladiators as 2A area champions on Thursday.

The usual suspects for the (7-5) Gladiators led the charge past (7-5) DeLeon, 55-18, and toward the 2A Division I regional semifinal for the third time in 11 seasons. 

Italy most recently won its way to the third round of the 2A playoffs in 2021, when the Gladiators ultimately fell to Crawford, 20-13. The program last advanced past the third round in 2012, when then-head coach Hank Hollywood coached the Gladiators to a 9-5 record that included a first-round playoff bye and playoff wins against Valley View, Honey Grove and Goldthwaite. That team fell to eventual state champion Stamford, 41-8, in the 2A state semifinals. 

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football favored the Gladiators by 6 points and gave the Old Gold faithful a 66.1% chance of winning in Thursday’s win against DeLeon. 

(Photos courtesy Italy ISD Athletics/Madison Thompson and Itzayanna DeLaHoya)


It’s true — DeLeon held the lead for the entire first quarter at Pirate Stadium in Granbury. The Bearcats scored on their third play from scrimmage for a 6-0 advantage.

It is also true that Italy senior wide receiver Dredrick Owens can score just as fast — often faster.

Ownes took a jet sweep 84 yards to paydirt to give the Gladiators the only lead they’d need Thursday evening. The rushing score came early in the second quarter. 

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Owens. He did, however, enter the area championship tilt with 772 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 42 catches. 

Italy eventually extended its lead to 14-6 with 7:55 to play in the second quarter. Owens later picked off a DeLeon pass with 8 seconds remaining before the half to keep that lead intact as the two teams headed into the locker room.

Italy needed just 3 plays to find paydirt in the second half. The Gladiators took a 20-6 lead with 11:20 to play in the third quarter. 

Gared Wood added two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to put the Gladiators ahead 34-6. 

Wood entered Thursday’s area championship having thrown for 1,358 yards and 19 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,008 yards and 15 scores. The senior increased all four of those totals in the victory. 

Sophomore running back Eric Solis added a rushing touchdown with under one minute to play in the third quarter. His 9th rushing touchdown of the season put the Gladiators ahead 41-12.

Wood added a third rushing touchdown. Luke Drake intercepted a DeLeown pass with 6:36 to play in the third quarter. And Italy rolled to the 55-18 area championship victory. 


Italy will face (11-1) No. 3 Tolar in the 2A Division I regional semifinals. The date, time and location are all TBD. 

Tolar defeated Cayuga 60-0 in its area championship on Thursday. The Rattlers captured a bi-district championship by defeating Trenton 57-12. 


Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith


About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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  1. In 2012 Italy lost in the state semi-finals to Stamford.

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