The Bolzano Giants (5-0) outduelled the Firenze Guelfi (3-2), scoring two late, timely touchdowns and then holding on for a 36-32 win Saturday in Bolzano.
The Giants held a 16-6 halftime lead but watched as the Guelfi outscored them 20-6 over a 12 minute span in the third and fourth quarters. Trailing 26-22 early in the fourth, Bolzano scored two straight touchdowns and kept then Firenze at bay for the win.
Bolzano quarterback Austin Gahafer threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns while running for 28 and another TD with Marco Bonacci and Mark Simone doing the bulk of the damage. Bonacci had six catches for 141 yards and a touchdown while Simone recorded six receptions for 123 yards and another major. Wide receiver Pogo Bembo also scored while running back Ifrain Silot rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown.
For Firenze, quarterback Lynx Hawthorne completed 11 of 23 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns but was picked off once. Silas Nacita ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns while catching six passes for 178 yards and another major. Federico Carboni also scored on a touchdown reception.
Bolzano jumped out to a 16-6 halftime lead on touchdowns by Silot and Gahafer and a second quarter field goal by Della Vecchi. Carboni had opened the scoring for Firenze hauling in a 21 yard pass from Hawthorne.
Nacita took the game over early in the third quarter scoring two consecutive touchdowns to give the Guelfi a 19-16 lead with just over two minutes left in the period.
Gahafer finally got the Bolzano offense rolling again, connecting the Simone for a 33 yard touchdown to regain the lead for the Giants, 22-19, heading into the fourth.
Again Firenze answered with Nacita and Hawthorne marching them down to the Giants six yard line. Nacita carried the ball in to give the lead back to Bolzano, 26-22.
It took Gahafer all of three plays to restore the Giants lead, as he threw a nine yard touchdown strike to Pogo and Bolzano was back out in front 29-26 with seven minutes left.
Then Della Vecchi picked off a Hawthorne pass at midfield and Gahafer managed the clock beautifully, using up over four minutes and driving his team down to the Guelfi 11 yard line. He found Bonacci in the end one to increase the lead to 36-26 with just over two minutes to go.
That was still too much time as two plays later, Hawthorne connected with Nacita for a 72 yard touchdown bomb to narrow the lead to 36-32 with a little over a minute remaining. However, neither team could find the end zone after that and Bolzano came away with a huge victory.
With three games to go in the regular season, the Giants top the standings in Italy’s Div. 1 with a 5-0 record, followed by the Milano Seamen in second at 4-1 and the Lazio Ducks third, also at 4-1. Firenze is fourth with a 3-2 record.