Parma Panthers grab early lead in Italian standings with win over Milano Rhinos

Week 2 in Italy saw the Milano Rhinos and Parma Panthers, who were both coming off big wins, battle it out for the number one seed in Italy’s Division 1.

The Panthers received the opening kickoff with Modeste Pooda (#4) showing again what a dangerous return man he is, giving Parma great starting field position. A big play from receiver and DB Simone Alinovi (#20) put the team in position for Nick Diaco (#11) to continue where he left off at wildcat, running it in from short range. The Panthers went up 7 – 0.

Milano started strong on the following drive with Parisian Amir Kilan (#7) at RB and former University of Hawaii receiver Jason-Matthews Sharsh (#3) who finished off the drive off with a 30 yard pass from QB Giovanni Rescigno (#17). The extra point missed was one of four that failed to be converted.

The Rhinos kicked to Parma’s Pooda on the ensuing kickoff which went for 60 yards, again giving them great starting field position. After a botched toss to the left, Parma QB Reilly Hennessey (#12) ran the ball in for himself from 30 yards out making the score 14 – 6 Panthers.

On the following drive, Milano’s Rescigno marched his team down the field, throwing lasers and scrambling with the ball, leading to a sideline throw to Sharsh who looked like he was down but spun out of it and broke off a 40 yard run. Kilan finished it off to make the score 14 – 12 Panthers after Milano missed the second PAT.

Parma WR Simone Alinovi #20 being pursued by Milano Rhinos LB #25 Ryan Lonzar Photo: Luigi Felisa

The Rhinos again kicked it to Pooda, which again went for a long return but was called back due to a hold. The Panthers offense stalled however. A few back and forths later, Alinovi and Hennessey connected on a 30-yard wheel route for the score to make it 21 – 12 Panthers.

The following drive saw former Western Michigan and NFL linebacker Asantay Brown (#2) force his third fumble but the play called back due to an offside penalty and the Rhinos took advantage. Rescigno threw a 40-yard bomb to Sharsh. Another failed two-point conversion. 21-18 at the end of half in favor of Parma.

The two teams had endured heavy rain in the first half which started to show in the second as a number of handling errors were made by the Rhinos in the opening possession causing a three-and-out.

On the ensuing drive, Panthers QB Hennessey took full advantage of former Colgate (DI) tight-end Diaco to methodically drive down the field and top it off with a score putting the Panthers up 28 – 18.

After a number of punts from both sides Rhinos looked to catch a break with a long pass down the sideline to Sharsh, but not much was going their way as it was called back due to a holding call. This led to a Milano punt which was partially blocked giving the Panthers great field position.

After Panther RB, Alessandro Malpeli Avalli (#33) broke free for two huge gains and reliable Diaco finished it of from the wildcat, punching the ball in from short range to extend the lead to 35 – 18 Panthers.

Milano refused to concede. Rescigno launched an 80-yard bomb to Sharsh, and this time there were no penalty flags. Still, Milano missed its fourth extra point and Parma held a 35-24 lead.

Milano Rhinos WR Giovanni Rescigno #17 being tackled by Parma DL #94 Oumar Niang Photo: Luigi Felisa

The Panthers were determined to prevent Milano from mounting a comeback by launching an offensive of their own. On the next series, Hennessy scrambled for 30 yards before finding Alinovi for a 40 yard touchdown increasing Parma’s advantage to 42 – 24.

Milano started the following drive in great field position after an outstanding return, but Diaco refused to allow the Rhinos back into the game making plays on both sides of the ball; a Diaco sack leads to a turnover on downs in Panther territory. 

At this point, Parma brought in their backup and former championship-winning QB, Tomas Monardi (#9), to try to run out the game on the next drive. The Rhinos forced a change of possession though, but it was too little too late. A last-minute score by Rescigno made the final score 42 – 32.

The Panthers head into their matchup against the Firenze Guelfi this week feeling good now having beaten arguably the two best teams in the league – Milano Seamen and Milano Rhinos – in consecutive outings, making them strong favorites for the title this year. The Rhinos will play Ancona Dolphins this coming week in a must win if they hope to keep their title aspirations alive.

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.