Italy: Parma Panthers punch ticket to final after rout of Firenze Guelfi

The Parma Panthers took charge early and scored often en route to a 55-20 shellacking of the Firenze Guelfi in the second scheduled semifinal of Italy’s Division 1 Sunday afternoon in Parma, Italy.

The Panthers left no doubt with a swarming defense and an offense that could seemingly score at will against a Firenze Guelfi team that had taken Parma into overtime during the regular season.

Still, it was Parma that struggled first as the Panthers first drive resulted in an early punt due to uncharacteristic miscues between quarterback Reilly Hennessey and his offense. Guelfi running back Gerard Johnson, the league’s rushing leader, went back to return the punt for Guelfi, but the ball was greasy due to heavy rainfall and bounced off his chest and into his own endzone. Parma’s star wideout Simone Alinovi was tearing down the field at the same time and hit Johnson as he tried to pick the ball up and fell on the ball himself resulting in the game’s first touchdown for Parma.

This would be symbolic in a game that from that point on simply seemed to go Parma’s way.

However, the Guelfi, determined not to let the game get away from them, came straight back with a touchdown of their own as safety turned receiver and Notre Dame alumni Max Redfield sped down the right sideline and managed to reel in his first touchdown reception of the game. A failed two-point conversion kept the score at 7 – 6.

Parma RB Modesta Pooda #4 rushed for 112 yards and 1 TD Photo: CUBO Photo Milano

The Panthers went right back to work though, scoring on the next two drives. The first came off a pick-six from linebacker Asantay Brown and the second as running backs Modeste Pooda, Allessandro Malpeli Avalli and Nick Diaco, playing from the wildcat formation, would all team up to gash the Guelfi defense play after play. As the first half came to an end the Panthers were up 21 – 6.

Firenze opened the second quarter driving at the midway point with a combination of both Johnson and true quarterback Andrea Fimiani (#11) escaping the pocket and offloading the rock to their playmakers. The drive culminated with a 15-yard post from Redfield to bring the score to 21 – 12 after another failed two-point conversion.

The Panthers worked with a short field on the following drive after a failed onside kick attempt from Guelfi. After a few ugly looking plays from Parma, Hennessey threw a 30-yard dime to Alinovi in which he contorted his body to catch the ball over his back shoulder for his second score of the game. 

After a great return from young teenage RB Cosimo Casati, who returned one to the house in their first game, the Guelfi offense stalled again as the pocket continued to collapse around Fimiani. Parma again refused to cease their relentless offensive output as Hennessey ripped off chunks of yardage with his legs before again hitting Alinovi on a back shoulder fade from the five-yard line to bring the score to 35 – 12 at the half.

Firenze Guelfi WR #22 Max Redfield hauling in one of his 2 TDs Photo: CUBO Photo Milano

Parma was able not only to contain the dangerous rushing attack of Johnson in the second half, but also Fimiani as the game began to get out of hand. Pooda and Malpeli Avalli continued to ravage the Guelfi defense in the second half breaking off long runs and adding another touchdown so by the end of the third quarter Parma had boosted the lead to 42-12.

Guelfi managed to get in a late touchdown via a 10-yard rush from Johnson to make the score a little more respectable, but by this point the game was well and truly in the books. Parma and the starting offense scored one last touchdown off a 20 yard rush from Malpeli Avalli and added another field goal to finish it up, 55 – 20.

Guelfi should walk away from this with heads held high as they left everything on the field. Parma were simply too much to handle as they executed in every phase of the game from start to finish. Questions still loom as the final approaches but one thing is certain, Parma will be a hard team to beat as they have gone from strength to strength throughout the season. 

The semifinal between the Milano Seamen and Lazio Ducks has now been postponed to July 13 due to a COVID outbreak in the Lazio squad.

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.