Italy: Milano Seamen winners in the battle for Milan

After dropping the opening game of the season to the Parma Panthers, the Milano Seamen have been on a roll and the latest victim was crosstown rivals, the Milano Rhinos. On Saturday, the Seamen rolled to a 55-30 win over the Rhinos to improve to 4-1 and take over second place in the standings.

The 55 point outburst gives the Seamen 180 points in five games and a league-best 36 points a game. Meanwhile, Rhinos receiver Jason Sharsh put on a show, scoring all four of his team’s touchdowns.

Still, it was the Seamen who took charge early and then never let up.

Seamen returner Andrea Fiammenghi (#22) set the tone returning the opening kickoff to midfield in what was to be the first in a series of monster returns. Still, quarterback Luke Zahradka (#7) was unable to get anything going and the Seamen were forced to punt the ball, but the punt was a good one, pinning the Rhinos deep in their own territory. 

After stalling, the Rhinos offense set up to punt. That’s when Seamen defensive back Enzo Mensah (#20) found a gap and stormed up the middle, blocking the punt, setting the Seamen up inside the 25.

Seamen WR Andrea Fiammenghi Photo: Dario Fumagalli

 Zahradka’s errant early-game passing seemed to continue but then on a 10-yard hook-route to Stefano Di Tunisi (#84) things changed. Di Tunisi broke a tackle and waltzed into the end zone for the score making it 7 – 0.

Rhinos quarterback Giovanni Rescigno (#17) continued to spread the ball around but this time with more efficiency, working his way down the field. The drive showcased a great matchup between newly arrived Seamen safety Jeremiah Johnson (#18) and Rhinos receiver Jason Sharsh (#3), both of whom took turns getting the better of the other on different plays. The Rhino offense made its way down to the one yard-line but failed on three attempts to punch it in, with Rescigno trying to sneak it in from under center on fourth down and fumbling the ball.

On the first play on the ensuing drive, Zahradka threw a dart down the seam to Fiammenghi who raced 80 yards before being dragged down from behind. Jordan Bouha (#1) finished it off with an athletic leaping snag in the endzone to make it 14 – 0.

On the following kick-off, Di Tunisi floated a perfect onside kick right into the hands of Gianluca Santagostino (#19) to keep the ball in the possession of the Seamen. They refused to take their foot off the pedal and Zahradka hit Bouha on a 40-yard deep route. Although they were forced to settle for a field goal, the Seamen took a 17-0 lead into the second quarter.

From the following Rhino drive onwards, Sharsh started to get the better of Johnson, and the entire Seamen defense, keeping his team in the game for most of the contest. Sharsh would go down the field himself to get the Rhinos first score on the board but a blocked extra point kept the score 17 – 6.

Zahradka came back with a 45-yard strike to Filippo Fiammenghi (#87) to set the Seamen up inside the 10 before Bouha ran the ball in on a jet sweep. At this point it felt as if the score was starting to get away from the Rhinos at 24 – 6.

Seamen RB Giacomo Querzola #30 Photo: Dario Fumagalli

Sharsh stayed hot though, working his way down the field before catching a 35-yard post pass for the touchdown to finish the drive off and keep the Rhino’s hopes alive. They converted on the two-point conversion to make it a 10 point game, 24-14.

The Rhinos forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at midfield and were intent on mounting a comeback, but instead were forced into a three-and-out by the Seamen defense.

Still in the second quarter, the teams traded touchdowns with Seamen’s receiver Juan Flores Calderon (#81) finding the end zone and then Sharsh scoring again. In fact, the score looked to remain at an eight-point gap before the half but a highlight-reel kick-return for a touchdown from Andrea Fiammenghi (#22) put the game just out of reach again – 36 – 22 Seamen.

Rhinos WR Jason Sharsh #3 scored 4 TDs Photo: Dario Fumagalli

Although down a sizable amount coming out in the second-half, the Rhinos were confident that with their high powered offense, a comeback was not insurmountable. But a horrific start in the way of a botched snap and a safety gave the ball straight back to the Seamen. William Petrone (#24) then broke off a 20-yard run before a touchdown fade into the corner of the endzone from Santagostino to put the score at 45 – 22 early in the third quarter.

Sharsh continued to put in work and managed to bring it back to a two-score game with his fourth touchdown of the game but the Seamen would not ease up, continuing to work their way down the field before Flores Calderon secured his second score of the game making it 52 – 30.

The Seamen – but not Giorgio Tavecchio – would kick through one more field goal before each team sent in their back up QB’s signaling the cease fire to bring the final score to 55 – 30 in what was a dominant performance from the Seamen.

The Seamen will go into a bye-week feeling good that they have now firmly found their groove after a shaky start to the season. And all Rhino opponents beware, that if you hope to beat this turbo-charged offense, you must be ready to score a lot of points as Sharsh has proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with.  

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.