Italy: Milano Seamen close regular season with convincing win over Lazio Ducks

In the final regular season matchup in Italy’s Division 1, the Milano Seamen, who were still licking their wounds from the beat down at the hands of Austria’s Swarco Raiders the week before, definitely had plans to take out their frustrations on the hometown Lazio Ducks.

It didn’t quite go as planned against the feisty Ducks squad who took an early lead, but the final result, a 35-21 win, helped as the teams head into the unusual “clock tournament” in the final two weeks before the actual playoffs start.

The Seamen went into the game with a full roster while Lazio were missing the services of star receiver Matt Hazel although All-Europe running back Mike Gentili had quietly rejoined his former team after a campaign in Spain.

Lazio got the game going with a squib kick that landed right in the waiting arms of dangerous return man Andrea Fiammenghi (#22) who brought it out to the Seamen 35. A play later, Milano QB Luke Zahradka (#7),  got the ball straight to play-maker Jordan Bouah (#1) via a screen to get the Seamen drive off to an explosive start going down to the Lazio 20. A play later and Zahradka lobbed a back corner fade to Stefano Di Tunisi (#84) for the score. It appeared to be business as usual for the Seamen.

Seamen WR Andrea Fiammenghi #22 Photo: Sophia Sperandio

After a couple of awkward looking plays, the Ducks were forced to punt it straight back to Milano, who were themselves unable to get much going before attempting a 60 yard field-goal – without an NFL kicker Giorgio Tavecchio (#40). Then, on the very next play, and in perfect Lazio fashion, Luke Casey (#8) launched the ball 60 yards to Adalberto Rinaldi (#16) for the score leveling the game at seven a piece.

The Seamen, determined to get the ground game going on the next drive, hammered the Ducks front seven play after play, working their way down field before a third-down errand snap went over Zahradka’s head forcing a punt and the mid-way point. 

The Ducks high powered offense went straight to work feeding both running back Mike Gentilli (#33) and Rinaldi, ripping off huge chunks of yardage at a time. And on the Seamen 35-yard line Casey dropped a perfectly placed ball into Ennio Ludicone’s (#5) arms on a go-route for the score taking the Ducks ahead 14 – 7.

The Seamen were again plagued by snapping issues on the following drive, one of which flew 30 yards over the head of Zahradka. It looked as if the Ducks would get the ball back in favorable field position but a botched punt return gave the ball straight back to the Seamen deep in Lazio territory. The Seamen went straight back to the ground game before Zahradka hit Leonardo Franchi (#88) wide open in the endzone to bring the score to 14 – 13 after more bad snapping on the extra point.

Casey and the Ducks offense would go on to string together a series of great passing plays, but a misread from Casey landed the ball in the hands of Milano LB Kevin Khay (#6) in the redzone who managed to run it back out to the 25 before an after-whistle cheap shot on Casey sent the Seamen back to the 10. Despite the poor field position, the Milano offense was still able to get things going through the air and topped the drive off with a 45-yard touchdown screen to Bouah to put the Seamen back in the lead. A two-point conversion gave the Seamen a 21-14 lead to close the half out.

Lazio Ducks RB Mike Gentili #33 finding running room Photo: Sophia Sperandio

The Ducks came out flat in the second-half and on the third play of the half Casey threw an interception to safety Lorenzo Paglicci (#28), giving the ball back to Milano on their own 30-yard line. Three plays later and Juan Flores Calderon (#81) was in the back of the endzone for the Seamen to make it 28 – 14.

After another negligible drive it looked as if the game was starting to get away from the Ducks as the Seamen again went in for six in a pedestrian looking drive. With the score now at 35 – 14 in the fourth quarter the Ducks would have to start taking some risks, and they did just that. But in what looked to be a promising drive the Lazio offense stalled in the Seamen redzone and turned it over on downs after a string of incompletions to effectively mark the end the regular season for both sides.

All that was left was for the back-ups to go in and get some much needed experience. Lazio second-string QB Matteo Pavolini (#9) marched the team down the field on the following drive and score to finish the game up 35-21.

As the teams now look to the purgatory that is the ‘clock tournament’, both will be walking into very odd situations. The number two seeded Milano Seamen will have to go up against the unbeaten Parma Panthers and a 3 – 3 Ancona Dolphins side while Lazio will be facing off against Guelfi Firenze and Warriors Bologna who are both 2 – 4. The Seamen will undoubtedly feel confident in their playoff run regardless of the opponent but a Lazio side may have just lucked their way into two winnable games to give them a playoff berth. 

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.