Italian Playoffs: Not as clear cut as they seem

This weekend, the four Italian teams that made it into the playoffs will battle it out for a chance to make it to the Italian Bowl.

The Saturday night game will see a high-octane Lazio Ducks offense go up against the Italian powerhouse, the Milano Seamen. The Sunday game will pit the number one and four seeds against each other, the Parma Panthers and the Firenze Guelfi.

Although there are some who may just see the playoffs as a formality for the Panthers and Seamen on their way to the Italian Bowl, Parma announcer Alex Jones, an expert observer, offers up a different analysis of the Italian semifinals.

Prior to the opening game of the Italian regular season, there was little doubt that the Seamen would retain their title after claiming five of the last six championships in convincing fashion. But calamity struck early, as they fell to Parma not once but twice during the regular season. This, combined with the thrashing they took in the Central European Football League game against Austria’s Swarco Raiders, gave the squad’s ego a pounding. But Jones gives the team high marks, stating that the organization is class, top to bottom; that regardless of the adversity they have faced this season they still have not only American-Italian quarterback Luke Zahradka but also arguably one of the deepest Italian lineups in the league with players like Jordan Bouha, Enzo Mensah and William Patrone all offering an import levels of service. 

Parma Panthers RB Modeste Pooda #4 Photo: Dario Fumagalli.

One thing Jones feels will be a focus point for the Seamen in this game will be the Lazio offense led by the quarterback and wide-out tandem of Luke Casey and Matt Hazel. The offense has managed to put up eye-bulging numbers this year with 2334 yards and 35 touchdowns, ranking them second in the league. If the Seamen can contain the Lazio offense and prevent the game from turning into a straight shoot-out then they should be able to walk away with a comfortable victory as the Duck’s defense has proved messy at best this season.

 

Lazio Ducks WR Max Hazel #4 Photo: Sophia Sperandio

Parma, now the headline team of the league, will be battling Guelfi in the second playoff game. Parma have seldom put a foot wrong this season. They have proved consistent in all three phases of the game. They have the ability to score on any pass with quarterback Reilly Hennessey and wide receiver Simone Alinovi; on any rush or return with the running back duo of Modeste Pooda and Allessandro Malpeli Avalli; and create turnovers on any play with linebacker Asantay Brown. But most importantly, they have been clutch, in numerous games this season it could have gone either way, and each time Panthers have come out on top. Jones’ son, who plays quarterback for the Panthers, sings the praises of head coach Marc Mattioli and credits him with the team’s success and unity.

Milano Seamen WR Jordan Bouah #1 Photo: Sophia Sperandio

Although the Sunday game features the one and four seed and would logically prove to be a game far less close, the opposite is actually true. With all the twists and turns that the regular season and then the ‘clock tournament’ offered, it would make sense that the fourth seed is not actually the fourth best team in the league. The Guelfi’s season started tumultuously to put it mildly. The team looked unable to utilize its two star imports, Max Redfield and Gerard Johnson, and the selection of an Italian quarterback looked misplaced. Their first win would not come until week four against a struggling Warriors Bologna. But Jones insists that you have to look a little deeper to find the real Guelfi

Firenze Guelfi QB Andrea Fimiani #11 escaping the rush against Ancona Dolphins Photo: Elena Pieroni

The first game of the season for them came in week two against a revenge-seeking Milano Seamen squad who had just lost to the Panthers. This, combined with nearly two years away from competitive football, resulted in a beat-down for Guelfi as players looked out of place and confused. The following week looked even more daunting as they would have to play the giant slayers, Parma. But Guelfi were ready, they made some adjustments and launched the monstrous rushing attack that put them 400 yards clear of anyone else in the league come the end of regular season; this combined with the rapid development of quarterback Andrea Fimiani who learned how to escape the pocket and keep out of the clutches of the Parma D-line on almost every offensive play, kept them in it until the end. There has been some inconsistency from Guelfi but the talent and desire to win is there. Parma may need to play their best game of the season yet.

Although the season has not been perfect, there’s no question that it is the four best teams who have reached the playoffs and that we should expect anything but a forgone conclusion.

Make sure to catch all the action this coming weekend on AFI.tv.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who has worked in B2B journalism and comms in the third sector; with experience in both education and human rights. He has played football for the London Warriors for the last 15 years as well as the