On an ideal spring Saturday night at Gianni Brera Stadium in Pero, Italy the Spartans of Case Western Reserve University used a dominating defense and efficient offense to defeat the Milano Rhinos American Football Club 53-0.
The Spartans, traveling with American Football Worldwide who organizes American football games in Europe, played the game at the end of a nine-day educational journey from Rome through Tuscany and finishing north of Milan in Lake Como.
The Rhinos won the coin toss and choose to receive the opening kick-off.
Testing the defensive front of the Spartans the Rhinos could not move the ball and after a 3rd down incompletion they were forced to punt. The CWRU Spartans then drove the ball swiftly and from 9 yards out quarterback Rob Cuda (South Elgin HS, Bartlett, IL) covered the distance to pay dirt by driving would-be tacklers the last five yards. After Weston Salerno (Chapparel HS, Temecula, CA) added the extra-point the Spartans had a 7-0 lead.
On the Rhinos subsequent drive, Justin McMahon (Mentor HS. Mentor OH) of CWRU stepped in front of a curl route and returned the ball to the Rhinos’ one. On the first offensive snap Miles Anthony (Germantown Academy, Philadelphia, PA) went in untouched to make the score 14-0. Another three-and-out produced by the Spartans defense was followed by a punt that pinned CWRU deep in it’s own territory. However, Cuda changed the field position swiftly when he went up top to Luke DeFrancesco (Bishop McCort HS, Johnstown, PA) for a 55-yard gain moving the ball into Rhinos territory. A couple plays later Cuda hooked up with DeFrancesco again for a 12-yard touchdown pass making the score 21-0 CWRU.
The Spartans defense produced favorable field position after forcing a short punt and the Spartans took advantage with a four-play drive culminating with Miles Anthony taking a pitch 36 yards for his second score of the day.
Early in the 2nd quarter the CWRU defense produced their 2nd turnover at the Rhino’s 15-yard line. However, the Rhinos defense stiffened and forced a 32-yard field goal attempt for which Salerno converted providing CWRU with a 31-0 lead.
Later the Rhinos forced the only CWRU turnover on the day after a pass completion, however they were unable to capitalize and when CWRU took over Cuda went deep to Tap Tasker (St. Francis HS, East Aurora, NY) for a 43-yard touchdown pass. After a bad snap forced a scramble situation, holder Tasker scrambled to find Dan Cronin (St. Laurence HS, Palos Heights, IL) in the end zone for a 2-point conversion staking the Spartans to a 39-0 lead. After a Tyler Campbell (Bay HS, Bay Village OH) interception finished off a Rhinos drive, the 39-0 held up as the halftime score.
In the second half with the clock running, the Spartans added scores by Jordan Estaban (Belen Jesuit Prepatory, Miami FL) on a 5 yard run and a 21 yard run by Michael O’Donnell (West Allegheny HS, Imperial PA) leading to the final score of 53-0 for the Case Western Reserve University Spartans.
The Rhinos have qualified for the Italian Football League playoffs and are currently jockeying for better seeding for their tournament that takes place in mid-June. After the contest, players and coaches from both programs gathered at a nearby pizzeria for a late night meal and jovial conversations about their respective experiences in football, other stories about each other’s cultures and potential collaborations and visits in the future.
Case Western Reserve University football traveled 25 student-athletes, staff and family members touring historical and cultural sites in Italy from Rome, through Tuscany and to the tip of Lake Como.
The team breaks for the summer and resumes its competitive season on Saturday, January 5th at the University of Chicago.