For the first time in the Milano Seamen’s short history, they will be facing crosstown rivals and defending champions, the Milano Rhinos in the Italian Bowl Saturday July 8 in Stadio Romeo Menti, Vicenza.
The Rhinos finished first overall in Italy’s Divisione 1 with a 10-0 record while the Seamen were third at 8-2. They lost to the Rhinos in the regular season 26-10 and also to the Parma Panthers 17-14. They exacted their revenge on the Panthers by beating them in the semifinals, 27-20. They look to even the score against the Rhinos in the biggest game of the year.
Rhinos head coach Chris Ault has fashioned a powerhouse in the two seasons he has been at the helm of the team. Since his arrival in early 2016 they have not lost a game to an Italian team. His “Pistol Offense” which was so successful at Nevada, is working well with quarterback TJ Pryor running it.
The Rhinos led the league in many statistical categories in 2017 including highest scoring offense (38.1 pts/game) and second leading defense (10.8 pts/game). However, the Seamen were right behind their crosstown rivals in almost every category. Except rushing. The Rhinos with the mobile Pryro led Italy in rushing by a wide margin averaging 224 yards a game. The Seamen, on the other hand, with quarterback Luke Zahradka behind center, averaged 217 yards passing a game compared to the Rhinos 151.
Zahradka threw for 2,154 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2017 while Pryor completed 103 of 167 passes for 1,498 yards although he rushed for another 740.
Besides Pryor who was the league rushing leader, the Rhinos had two other players in the Top 10 including Elvis Cira with 509 yards and Giacomo Querzola who rushed for 484 yards. Tommaso Finadri led the Rhinos with 600 yards in pass receiving. Nicholas Ricciardulli had 24 carries for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the semifinal win over the Bolzano Giants.
Wide receiver Stefan di Tunisi has been outstanding for the Seamen and in the semifinal game against Parma, he had 171 yards in receptions and three touchdowns. Reece Horn led all Seamen receivers on the year with 638 yards and six touchdowns.
The edge goes to the Rhinos in this one but not by much. And with the Seamen’s defense playing so well right now, the odds can switch in a hurry.