Naples routs mistake-prone Aviano
Naples running back Kyle Baldree eludes the tackle of Aviano's Jake Ellis in the Wildcats' 41-0 victory over the Saints Saturday on a muddy field that had both teams struggling to hold onto the ball.
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – The Aviano Saints, down to just 19 players suited up for their game Saturday against the Naples Wildcats, needed just about everything to go right for a victory.
It didn’t. Repeatedly.
Senior quarterback Joseph Pitts threw for 141 yards and a touchdown and ran for 116 and another touchdown to lead the Wildcats to a 41-0 mercy-rule victory that ended with a few minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
But probably the biggest two factors were the Saints’ inability to maintain possession of the football – five turnovers in the first half – and a Naples attack that eventually wore them down.
“We could see they were tired coming out of halftime,” Naples coach Steve Altstiel said. “There was that and we made some adjustments as well.”
The biggest blow probably came just before the half, though. Zack Cheek intercepted a Jake Ellis pass and ran it back 62 yards for a touchdown, putting Naples up 14-0.
“Just a little hitch pass,” Aviano coach Rick Dahlstrom said. “But they were playing back. I wish I could take that call back.”
“They really played us tough in the first half,” Pitts said.
He put the game out of reach on Naples’ second possession of the second half on a quirky, 81-yard touchdown run on the team’s first play of the possession. He swept left and went untouched for about 30 yards, then appeared to be wrapped up by a pair of Saints defenders. But he got away from the tangle, paused, then ran untouched the rest of the way.
“I was sandwiched by two guys,” Pitts said. “I got spun around and it took me a second to steady myself again. Then Isaiah (Wesby) had a great block in front of me and I took it to the house.”
Naples then poured it on, with Kyle Baldree scoring on 19- and 23-yard runs and Pitts’ 43-yard broken-play touchdown pass to Wesby.
Altstiel, whose team improved to 3-0, gave the Saints credit for not folding until the end.
“This is the first time we’ve been tested,” he said. “I think the way it ended up, this was good for us and good for them.”
The game looked like it might be more competitive early on. Aviano didn’t have trouble moving the ball in the first half – just holding onto it. A fumble on the fifth play of the game gave Naples the ball on the Aviano 30. Three plays later, Tyler Williams scored from 10 yards out and it was 7-0.
Aviano, which fell to 2-1, drove inside the Naples 10-yard line three different times, each ending in a turnover. Williams picked off a pass at the 4 to stop one drive and Aaron Smith and Chris Morris picked up fumbles on the other two.
Aviano, with the smallest enrollment in Division II, was missing three players because of suspension. The Saints travel to Ansbach next week. Naples visits Schweinfurt.