Italy: Parma Panthers edge Milano Seamen to open season with a bang

The last time the two northern Italian powerhouses met, the Panthers got the better of the Seamen with a nail biting 22-19 finisher back in 2019. As the fortune-telling head coach Michael Wood predicted earlier in the week “we don’t like them and they don’t like us…it will come down to the last play”, events played out as such.

The Panthers came out looking the part, methodically driving down the field until coach Wood sent a mike-blitz straight down the middle forcing a hurried throw by QB Reilly Hennessey (#12) to go back for a pick-six by Seamen’s defensive end Nicola (#99). It looked like business as usual for the reigning Italian Bowl champions.

After a couple of three-and-outs from the Panthers, Milano got receiver Stefano Di Tunisi (#84) heavily involved but a strong defensive effort from the Panthers led to two picks on two drives closing the first quarter out Seamen 7 – Panthers 0.

Parma RB Modeste Pooda #4 Photo: Dario Fumagalli

A heavy helping of Panther import Nick Diaco (#11) at wildcat led to a Panther score at the beginning of the second. In the following Seamen drive Italian mercenary Jordan Bouah (#1) decided to put the team on his back with a 65-yard kickoff return, two receptions and a receiving touchdown to make up the full 100 yards himself. The following Panther drive stalled and kicker Matteo Felli (#10) missed a 38-yard field-goal to keep it Seamen 14 – Panthers 7. 

But the Seamen still weren’t done for the half. A 75-yard TD bomb from Luke Zahradka (#7) to Di Tunisi increased the Seamen’s lead to 20 – 7 after a blocked extra-point. Panthers had been taking notes and hit a 35-yard bomb of their own from Reilly Hennessey to Simone Alinovi (#20) inching back to within six of the Seamen.

The half ended 20 – 14 to the Seamen.

The second-half was a defensive battle with neither team willing to concede. The hard hits took their toll as Italian stand-out and former Bolzano Giant Willaim Patrone (#24) went down with a knee injury. Mid-way through the third Panther kicker Matteo Felli redeemed himself with a 28-yard field-goal making in 20 – 17 in favor of the Seamen. 

Milano Seamen WR Jordan Bouah #1 Photo: Dario Fumagalli

The rest of the game was a slog, each team having opportunities but falling short due to a great defensive effort from both sides. Until a fourth quarter 45-yard field-goal opportunity from the Panthers looked to tie it up but twanged off the up-right. And then finally, in the pouring rain, another well utilized wildcat play from the Panthers and Nick Diaco led to a six-yard rushing TD making the final score 20 – 24 Panthers.

This was not one to miss. Two of the top teams in Italy remain defiant in the face of adversity and produce high quality football.

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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.