Italian Football League 2023 wildcard preview

The wildcard round of the Italian Football League (IFL) gets underway this weekend as four teams will attempt to make their way to the playoffs and eventually, the Italian Bowl

Saturday, June 10

Lazio Ducks (3-5) @ Ancona Dolphins (6-2) 

The Saturday game will see the 6–2 Ancona Dolphins host the 3–5 Lazio Ducks. Despite their dismal record, the Ducks have sported the league’s most potent passing attack pretty much since Week 1. Quarterback Austin Albericci, who is undoubtedly the front runner for league MVP, has dominated the stat box with 2,200 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Their defense on the other hand, has been the reason they currently sit at 3–5. They have been persistent in hemorrhaging points, which ultimately cost them losses, all year. This is unlikely to change as they go toe-to-toe with one of the most complete teams in the league.

The Dolphins started the season with a bang and have been pretty consistent throughout the year. They may have lacked the firepower to get it over the line against the Panthers and Guelfi, but have brushed aside every other opponent in the league. Quarterback Colin Di Galbo has had a similar year to Albericci in terms of numbers but has had the supporting cast to win.

The two teams’ first encounter in Week 4 ended with a 47–22 win in Ancona’s favor. With both their rosters, playing style and identity being similar to what it was then, it is unlikely Albericci can muster enough gusto to cause the upset.

Sunday, June 11

Milano Rhinos (4-4) @ Varese Skorpions (4-4)

The second wildcard game of the weekend will see Milano Rhinos travel to Varese to take on surprise contenders, the Skorpions. After starting the season strong and potentially one of the league favorites, the Rhinos lost starting quarterback Joey Baughman. Since then, the wheels have fallen off and they have subsequently limped into the playoffs. The Rhinos attempted to bring in an Irish quarterback, who went home after one week, and have just signed British quarterback Ashley Bailey for the playoff run.

Bailey has offered his services as a dual-threat quarterback and wide receiver recently in Australia, Czech Republic and Poland. He has put up solid numbers and shown himself to be a solid import, but putting the team on his shoulders, which is what he may have to do here, may be beyond him.

The big surprise this year was the Skorpions. They were asked to play reigning champs, the Firenze Guelfi, in their season opener after being promoted from second division, and got pummeled. Many wrote them off after that loss. Since then though, the Skorpions have offered up extremely consistent, all-round football and surprised a few fans. 

The Skorpions sit mid-table in nearly every category and offer what many would say is vanilla football. But quarterback Calvin Brownholtz has used the league’s underestimation of his team to his advantage and earned every ounce of this playoff berth.

The two teams met in the last week of the regular season for the first time, and the Skorpions hammered the Rhinos 42–7. Brownholtz had a day throwing for four touchdowns, a season high, and ended the season with a bang. It is worth mentioning that the Rhinos were without an import quarterback and had already secured a playoff berth, but regardless, the Skorpions took it to them away and will likely do the same at home on Sunday.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.