Firenze Guelfi historic, headed to first Italian Bowl ever, beat Bolzano Giants in thriller

The Firenze Guelfi are having a historic season. Sunday, in their first-ever semifinal game in Italy’s topleague, they survived a late scare and went on to defeat the Bolzano Giants 42-39 and advance to Italian Bowl XXXIX.

As has happened many times before, this turned into the Silas Nacita show as the versatile running back scored three touchdowns and threw for three more while rotating between quarterback, running back and defensive back.

Teammate Lynx Hawthorne, also rotating between quarterback and receiver, caught one of the touchdown passes while Giacona Bonanno and Ross Stowers hauled in the other two. Nacita also added a two-point conversion.

For the Giants, Austin Gahafer threw touchdown passes to Mark Simone (4 yd), Willy Petrone  ((7 yd) and two to Marco Bonacci. He also scored on a 36 yard run.

The Guelfi opened the scoring in the first half as Nacita found Bonanno for a 37 yard strike only three minutes into the game. The 7-0 lead held until early in the second quarter as Giuseppe Della Vecchia kicked a field goal to narrow the lead to 7-3.

On the very next possession, Nacita connected with Hawthorne on a 53 yard touchdown to increase the lead to 15-3  but two minutes later Gahafer responded, finding a gap and outrunning the Firenze defenders racing 36 yards to score and reduce the lead again to 15-10.

This was Nacita’s day though as on the next series he burst straight up the middle and left tacklers in his wake running 73 yards to increase the lead to 22-10.

The 12 point lead held until midway through the third quarter when Nacita again gave the Giants defense fits, juking his way 34 yards to score his second touchdown of the game to extend the lead to 28-10.

There was no quit in Bolzano in this game though as three minutes later Gahafer found Simone in the corner of the end zone to close the gap to 26-16.

Less than a minute later, Nacita first exploded for a 40 yard gain and then with thirty seconds left in the third, looped the ball up and into the hands of Stowers in the end zone and the lead was 35-15 with 12 minutes remaining in the game.

It took Gahafer less than two minutes to cut into the lead again, finding Petrone from seven yards out and the lead was down to 35-22. Then Jordan Bouah, who had been signed just a few days before after returning from the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS, took the ball in for a two-point conversion again reducing the lead, this time to 35-24.

Neither team could gain any momentum until late in the fourth as Nacita scampered in from 12 yards away to up the lead to 42-24 with just under four minutes left.

This is when the Gahafer to Bonacci show started as first following an excellent kickoff return by Petrone, Gahafer hit Bonacci for a 34 yard touchdown and Bouah added another two-point conversion.

With the score 42-32 and 3:30 to play, Bolzano forced the Guelfi to punt and with two minutes remaining, the Giants took the ball over for the last time. And it paid off as Gahafer found Bonacci in the end zone with 1:38 left to bring the lead down to 42-39 with time let.

This time though, the Guelfi played superb ball control and marched down deep into the Giants territory before handing the ball back with a few seconds left. Bolzano was able to get only two plays off before the final whistle.

The win, in the first-ever semifinal game played by the Firenze Guelfi, qualifies them for their very first Italian Bowl appearance where they will face the Milano Seamen, who defeated the Lazio Ducks 38-0.


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