Italy: Parma Panthers HC Marc Mattioli looks forward, not back as crucial matchup with Lazio Ducks looms

The Parma Panthers are set to face the surging Lazio Ducks Sunday, April 10 in a crucial game for both teams, but even more so for the 2021 title holding Panthers.

On Saturday 17 July 2021, Parma was crowned the Italian Bowl Champion, going undefeated through the regular season.

On that day, and in fact throughout the entire season last year, the Panthers executed in all phases of the game, dispatching all those who stood in front of them with poise and discipline. The 2022 season has not quite gone along the same lines.

As in 2021, the Panthers are led by head coach Marc Mattioli, formerly a defensive backs coach at Stanford and Vanderbilt. Mattioli brought not only sound technique and scheme to the team in 2021, but also an ability to identify what works and keep doing it.

When the Panthers agreed to bring back Mattioli after that magical undefeated season, along with an almost identical roster outside of a pair of imports, onlookers thought a repeat was in the cards. Unfortunately for Parma, this season has been anything but that.

Apart from a week 1 win over the Firenze Guelfi, the Panthers have looked like a shadow of their former selves. 

Mattioli reflects on the challenges so far:

“It has been a challenging start to the season for sure. As a team we just haven’t clicked yet. Obviously we’ve had some injuries, but that’s not an excuse. When one guy goes down it is an opportunity for someone else to step up. But so far the lack of continuity in personnel from game to game has created some issues. We have been really bad in the redzone. We have really shot ourselves in the foot down there and not capitalized on opportunities to score points because of penalties and turnovers. Defensively we have played solid at times but we have given up too many big plays at key “times. Those things need to be corrected and we are working hard at fixing them.”

One of the standout personnel changes this year has been the signing of Brook Bolles at quarterback, after Reilly Hennessy’s departure to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the GFL. Along with Bolles comes Ohio Dominican alumnus linebacker Dauson Dales. Both have shown their pedigree but have yet to impact the game the same way as their predecessors.

“We have tried to adjust the offense to what Brook does well. We have a few more designed QB runs in than we did last year. Also our pass game is more geared towards the reads and the throws that he does well. Defensively we have adjusted not because of Dauson but more based on who is healthy from week to week. For example whether we play a 4-down or a 3-down front. It has been a good thing that we have had to get some different schemes in because of necessity, and I think it will give us some added flexibility later in the year when all of our guys are back.”

The Panthers are currently sitting at 2-2. This week they will face off against a red-hot Lazio Ducks squad. To beat them, the Panthers will have to get on the board early and not allow the Ducks to stay in the game as they have a knack of finding ways to win in the dying seconds of the game.

“Rome is a good team. They have improved every week. Their Americans do a good job as well as their core of Italian players. I think their coaches have done a good job of figuring out what they do well and sticking to that formula without trying to do too much. They have our full attention and respect. In order to be successful this week, we will need to do the basics. Protect the football, score points in the redzone, tackle well, eliminate big plays on defense  and play with great effort and execution on Special Teams. There are no magic answers. This game is about giving great effort, being physical and executing assignments. That’s what it comes down to. We haven’t done that consistently yet this year, but that’s what we need to do to be successful.”

This may be the tipping point for the Panthers. With a number of key components expected to return it will be the perfect opportunity for Parma to spring-board themselves into the second half of the season and pick up where they left off at the end of last year.

The fifth place Panthers (2-2) take on the third place Lazio Ducks (2-1) Sunday, April 10 at 14:00 CET. The game can be viewed on

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.