Milano Seamen masters of Italy, use 2nd half surge to overwhelm Firenze Guelfi

The Milano Seamen exploded for four unanswered touchdowns in the last 14 minutes of the Italian Bowl to pull away from a stubborn Firenze Guelfi team to win 62-28 and capture their third consecutive Italian title and fifth in six years.

Wide receiver Xavier Mitchell caught a diving 20 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Luke Zahradka with just over a minute to go in the third quarter to jump out to a 41-28 lead in what had been a see-saw battle. That seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Guelfi, and Milano ran off two more touchdowns and then defensive back Marco Aletti scooped up a fumble with a minute let and raced 53 yards for the final score.

The score, most definitely, did not reflect the game.

For three quarters, the Seamen weren’t able to gain control of the game. Every time it looked like they would, Firenze would respond with Silas Nacita leading the way.

Milano RB Danilo Bonaparte finding running room Photo: Dario Fumagalli

Zahradka completed 17 of 19 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another 51 yards. Running back Danilo Bonaparte was a workhorse for Milano carrying the ball 14 times for 149 yards and a touchdown. He really came through late in the game when the Seamen needed to run the ball to eat up the clock, time and again slicing between defenders with the offensive line forging a path for him into the second level. Massive running back Antonio Raffaele pounded his way in for two touchdowns. Mitchell caught seven passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns while Gianluca Santagostino had three receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Filippo Fiammenghi hauled in two passes for 72 yards and another touchdown while Aletti returned a fumble for a touchdown. Stefano DiTunisi kicked eight extra points and two field goals.

For Firenze, Silas Nacita was, again, outstanding, completing 18 of 29 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while rushing 27 times for another 178 yards and three touchdowns. Steve Franco was a huge target for Nacita and had eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Milano opened the scoring on their opening drive with Zahradka finding Santagostino on a fade in the back of the end zone moving out to a 7-0 lead.

Just over three minutes later Nacita capped a drive with a nine yard burst right up the middle to close the gap to 7-6.

The Seamen extended the lead to 14-6 as Raffaele barged his way in from the one. But a minute later Nacita faked a run and then tossed a pass to a wide open Franco racing up the middle of the field and he took it 60 yards for a score. With the two-point conversion the Guelfi tied the game at 14-14 to close out the first quarter.

Milano QB Luke Zahradka Photo: Dario Fumagalli

Milano retook the lead to start the second quarter with Di Tunisi kicking a field goal and then, with the defense keeping Firenze under control, halfway through the quarter Zahradka maneuvered them down to the one and handed off to Raffaele again to move out to a 24-14 lead.

That’s when Milano tried an onside kick. It failed giving Firenze great field position. Two minutes later Nacita pulled his team to within three scoring from two yards out to make it 24-21.

The Seamen’s offense took control again though, marching down into the Guelfi red zone again. Di Tunisi made good on another field goal to give Milano a 27-21 lead going into the half.

The third quarter saw the Seamen’s run game on full display with Bonaparte finding a seam and outrunning the defense to score a 32 yard touchdown in extend the lead to 34-21.

Nacita wasted no time, driving the Guelfi down to the 20 yard line and scoring himself to narrow the lead to 34-28.

Zahradka and the Seamen’s aerial offense took over. Mitchell, who had been quiet for most of the game, exploded down the sideline and made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone to boost the lead to 41-28 late in the third quarter.

Firenze Guelfi QB Silas Nacita Photo: Dario Fumagalli

Nacita lost the ball on a fumble on the next Firenze possession at midfield and Zahradka marched Milano down to the 30 yard line. On the next play he connected with Fiammenghi for a touchdown and the lead was now 48-28 still early in the fourth.

The Guelfi could not get their offense untracked after that and Mitchell hauled in a 10 yard pass from Zahradka with three and a half minutes left to extend the lead to 55-28.

Franco’s fumble with a minute to go was scooped up by Aletti who ran past startled Guelfi players to score the final touchdown of the game.

Milano head coach Michael Wood was proud of his team:

“Our offense played maybe the best game I have ever seen an offense play. We scored on virtually every possession. The offensive line did a terrific job opening holes and protecting the quarterback. We played a physical game and it relly showed in the late stages of the game. It’s not easy being the favorites all season but these guys came through.”

 

 

 

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