Italian semifinals looming this weekend

Italy’s Div. 1 has arrived at the semifinal stage following Wild Card weekend so the top two teams in the league, the Milano Seamen and Bolzano Giants finally enter the post season.

After finishing the regular season on May 18 in first place with a 6-2 record, the Milano Seamen finally enter the post season with a semifinal game this weekend against the Lazio Ducks. Lazio, fifth place finishers during the regular season took on the fourth place Parma Panthers in the Wild Card round. The Ducks needed a last second tackle on the goal line to finally defeat Parma 22-20.

The Bolzano Giants finished second in the regular season standings and automatically qualified for the semifinals. They will face the Firenze Guelfi who finished third but defeated the Torino Giaguari in the wild card round this past weekend 31-14.

This is the sixth year in a row that both the Seamen and Giants have reached the semifinals.

Milano Seamen (6-2) – Lazio Ducks (6-3)

These two teams faced each other in the 2018 semifinal round and Milano beat the Ducks 45-13. And based on regular season results, this year’s game looks like it could be much the same. The Seamen demolished Lazio 51-0 on April 27. But that was a game where everything just fell apart for the Ducks and everything clicked beautifully for Milano. Seamen wide receiver Stefano di Tunisi had a field day in that game scoring three touchdowns and quarterback Luke Zahradka was on target all game long. Lazio has come a long way since then though. Quarterback Tyler Johnson finished fourth in passing in the regular season in passing yardage. In the wild card win against Parma, he threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns. He has a number of weapons including running back Mike Gentili who has finally returned from injury. He had 79 yards rushing against Parma. The “joker” is Lorenzo Melchiorre who was the game MVP with two touchdowns and an interception. Melchiorre can cause problems on both sides of the ball.

For the Seamen, apart from di Tunisi and Zahradka, who led the league in passing, wide receiver Xavier Mitchell can break a game wide open. And the Ducks will be up against the stingiest defense in the league. Milano allowed opponents only 13 points a game. Still, the Seamen can have their bad days as witnessed by their loss to Parma when nothing seemed to go right.

However, the odds are in Milano’s favor.

Bolzano Giants (6-2) – Firenze Guelfi (6-3)

The Bolzano Giants lost their final two games of the year after opening the season with six straight wins including a thrilling 36-32 victory over the Guelfi. They then lost in the CEFL Cup to the Moscow Spartans so they are entering this game on a losing streak. Still, Giants QB Austin Gahafer was the third leading passer in Italy with 1,759 yards and 21 TDs and he has the league’s top receiver, Mark Simone, to throw to along with  Marco Bonacci. In the win over Firenze in the regular season, Simone and Bonacci had 264 yards receiving and two touchdowns between them. And Bolzano has shored up the defense with one of the leading defensive backs in Germany last year, John Tidwell who played for the Frankfurt Universe. Nevertheless, the Guelfi have Silas Nacita who led the league in rushing with 1,146 yards and 20 touchdowns. Firenze quarterback Lynx Hawthorne is extremely versatile and threw for 1,060 yards and nine touchdowns but rushed for 471 and another three placing in fifth overall in Italy.

So it will be the Guelfi ground game versus the aerial attack of the Giants.

The winners of the semifinals will play in the Italian Bowl on July 6,

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