Italy: Wildcard Playoffs offer two intriguing matchups

The end of the Italian Football League regular season has finally arrived, and the playoffs are about to commence starting with the Wild Card round.

The Milano Seamen (8-0) and Parma Panthers (6-2) finished first and second in the IFL and automatically qualified for the semifinals. The third place Firenze Guelfi will face the Bologna Warriors, who finished sixth after a dramatic win over the Lazio Ducks in the final regular season game of the year. In the other game, the fourth place Ancona Dolphins will do battle with the Modena Vipers who wound up fifth.

#4 Ancona Dolphins (4-4) vs #5 Modena Vipers (3-5)

The first wildcard contest will see the more even of the two battles as the 4-4 fourth-place Ancona Dolphins take on the 3-5 fifth-place Modena Vipers.

Despite the Dolphins .500 record, there is nothing average about them. They are a team of stark contrasts. They sport without a doubt the best secondary in the league. Their defense has allowed less than 900 passing yards all season. 

On the other hand, their rushing attack averages just 89 yards per game. This is down to a heavy reliance on import quarterback Colin Di Galbo who has not only thrown the ball 264 times but has also had double the rushing attempts of their starting running back, Cristiano Brancaccio.

They have managed to win games due to sure tackling and forced turnovers on defense. This will play to their advantage in the game against Modena who have relied heavily on the arm of Danny Vanatsky all season.

Modena has operated as the league’s dark horse since their win over the defending champions Parma Panthers. They have flashed excellence at times, but also been downright awful at other times.

For Modena, the game plan should be simple. Force Di Galbo to throw the ball. He has shown himself to be at his best when operating as a dual-threat quarterback. If the defense takes away his ability to run, he may be too one dimensional to get the job done.

#3 Firenze Guelfi (6-2) vs #6 Bologna Warriors (3-5)


Thanks to Shakif Seymour’s heroic effort in the last game of the season against the Lazio Ducks, when he rushed for 150 yards and 2 TDs and threw for 130 and another 2 TDs, the Warriors are in their first playoff game since 2015. The makeshift quarterback – and former running back for Toledo – has torn apart opposing defenses with his down-hill physical style of play.

But the team’s success has not solely been down to Seymour. His offense’s willingness to run block for four quarters and the Bologna defense’s stinginess and fervor has kept the Warriors in the playoff race.

It is only unfortunate for them that they are facing perhaps the most dangerous team in the league. The Firenze Guelfi have been an absolute terror to play against. The relentless explosion of rushers often results in 35+ points and very short games.

This three-headed rushing attack has been led by Andrea Fimiani, Jared Gerbino and Ahmad Tanner – who have also shown an uncanny ability to pass the ball when needed as well. They have destroyed all rushing records in the league with 2515 yards in just eight games. The squad averages over 300 yards per game on the ground and will likely run rampant on the Warriors too.

The Achilles heel of the Guelfi team has been their pass defense. But with the Warriors wildcat offense, it is unlikely that the impressive rushing attack of Bologna will match up well with that of Guelfi’s.

Graphics: Igor Lazarevic

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.