Parma Panthers hold on in a nail biting finish to beat a surging Firenze Guelfi

One of this week’s key matchups in Italy saw the Parma Panthers, who were on a roll after beating two of the top teams in the league, take on a Guelfi squad who have just finished licking their wounds after a pedestrian start and opening season loss to the Seamen.

Parma received the kickoff and proceeded to drive down field through the air with features from Simone Alinovi (#20) and Nick Diaco (#11). In the redzone on third-down, Reilly Hennessey (#12) threw to a wide open Alinovi in the endzone but the young wideout couldn’t hold on and the Panthers werer forced to kick a field goal, 3 – 0.

The following Guelfi series saw a flurry of screens to Max Redfield (#1) who kept picking up first downs. This fast paced, no huddle offense was a breath of fresh air for all Guelfi fans who had lamented last week’s performance. Cosimo Casati (#32) finished the drive off running it in from the 15-yard line for the score putting Firenze up 7 – 3.

Parma Panthers WR Nick Diaco fighting through a tackle Photo: Corrado Benedetti

The tempo remained high on both sides of the ball with Guelfi LB Filippo Fort (#10) flying around making plays all over the field. But on a busted coverage, Alinovi got free and sprinted 45 yards down the sideline until he was pushed out of bounds taking Parma inside the Firenze five yard line. Alinovi redeemed his first drive drop by pulling in the touchdown pass on the following play in the back of the endzone putting Parma back on top 10 – 7.

The screen game continued for Guelfi with a 30-yard bomb to Redfield, who had an impressive day out on offense. Then on fourth and 14, the Guelfi went for it and quarterback Andrea Fimiani (#11) scrambled for 30 yards before throwing a jump-pass the following play to Frederico Carboni (#45) for the touchdown. Firenze took a 13-10 lead after the extra point was blocked.

The second quarter swung back in favor of Parma. Guelfi were unable to get anything going and the Panthers outscored them 10 – 0 with a TD coming through a air with a 20-yard pass from Hennessey to Tommaso Finadri (#6).

Guelfi were set to make a comeback and after a few penalties going Geulfi’s way QB Fimiani threw a 20-yard fade to Redfield for the score but another missed extra-point kept the score at 19 – 20 Parma.

On the following drive, Fort came screaming from Hennessey’s blind side and put a big hit on the quarterback causing a fumble which Guelfi recovered. Although the play would be reversed after defensive holding, Guelfi’s defense still forced a turnover a few plays later in the way of an interception.

The next few drives remained scoreless with a painful amount of laundry coming from the referees until a couple of long passes put Parma in the redzone where Panther running back Allessandro Malpeli Avalli (#33) was able to punch it in zig-zagging his way from the 20-yard line making the score 27 – 19.

And then late in the fourth, on the ensuing kickoff, Casati returned the ball 90 yards for the score with Gerrard Johnson (#14) punching it in for the two-point conversion squaring it up at 28 a piece.

Parma Panthers WR Matteo Bonzanni #80 Photo: Corrado Benedetti

Guelfi then kicked an onside kick, which they recovered and Johnson found the end zone again for a 25-yard touchdown putting Firenze back on top 34 – 27. Just as quick as Guelfi scored, Parma come straight back on the following drive, rolling down the field, devouring chunks of yardage play after play until Alinovi evened up the score 34 – 34 at the end of the fourth.

QB Fimiani drove Firenze down the field the next drive getting into field goal range but the kicker hooked the kick to send the game to overtime.

With the overtime rules specifying that each team starts on the opponents 25-yard line with an opportunity to score, it was effectively a shootout in Parma.

Parma started with the ball and after a couple of impressive runs from Malpeli Avalli, Hennessey topped it off in the redzone throwing an outroute to Alinovi for the score making it 41 – 34 Panthers.

For Guelfi to stay in the game they would also have to score a touchdown and an extra point, but were unable to do so after an impressive effort by the Parma defense. This nail biting finish saw an improved Guelfi team from last week but also a Parma team who have now come out on top after run-ins with arguably the three best teams in the league.

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.