Parma Panthers: Life at the top

In a condensed Italian season, the Parma Panthers have remained at the top of the league standings throughout.

The season opener pitted the Milano Seamen and the Parma Panthers against each other in an explosive encounter with the Panthers coming out on top.

They have remained there since.

Last weekend saw Guelfi Firenze inch past Warriors Bologna in the first game of the ‘clock tournament’ where each team plays the team above and below them in the end of regular season rankings. In a tournament style that clearly favors the teams with the worst records – unless you are first or last – Parma found themselves with the oddly shaped short straw as they would have to play the last place Milano Rhinos and the Seamen for a second time before the playoffs even begin. A Lazio Ducks side on the other hand are silently chuckling to themselves as they have shown that they can put up impressive numbers each week but haven’t necessarily been able to get the win’s so hover mid/bottom of the rankings. With two comfortable games ahead of them  the Ducks will feel they could easily sneak into the playoffs.

This weekend, Parma takes on the Seamen again.

Parma QB Reilly Hennessey Photo: Sophia Sperandio

The Panthers should remember though what got them here in the first place as they approach the Seamen game. At the start of April the two northern Italian power-houses met in Milan where Parma were to show off not only an outstanding aerial display from the likes of QB Reilly Hennessey and wide-outs Nick Diaco and Simone Alinovi but also a dynamic running game with Modeste Pooda and Allessandro Malpeli Avalli. Although the two experienced torrential rain in the contest, the diversity of Parma’s attack should fill them with confidence that no matter what the conditions they will be able to produce.

The following games were a test of the Panther defense and offensive temperament as Rhinos Milan, Guelfi Florence and Lazio Ducks all produced more in offensive yardage than Parma but still fell short. This was not only clutch execution by the offense but also due to a Parma defense, led by ex-Philadelphia Eagle and XFL linebacker Asantay Brown, that gave up yards but not touchdowns and most importantly consistently caused turnovers.

Although Parma’s imports have performed admirably to say the least they could not have been as successful if it wasn’t for decisive play calling from head coach Marc Mattioli but also a stallworthy group of young Italians that go after it every single play. One of those Italians playing on par with the American imports is Simone Alinovi who is currently sitting at third in yards and second in touchdowns amongst the likes of Milano Rhinos WR Jason Sharsh and ex-NFL receiver Matt Hazel who plays for the Lazio Ducks.

Parma DL Oumar Niang #94 helping bring down Milano Rhinos ball carrier Photo: Luigi Felisa

Simone reflects on the upcoming Seamen game:

“We feel like everyone that comes to play against us will give us their best shot, and we know that, so we have to be more ready than everyone. It’s always like this, everyone want to be the first one to kill the one on the top, and we have to be ready for that.

“I am very happy with the result I had this season, by far my best season ever. I feel like I haven’t lost any opportunity to make a play and I know my QB and teammates trust me, and that’s the most important thing. I’m proud to have shown my play style in a great way like this year. But business isn’t finished so these stats don’t mean a lot right now. Let’s see at the end of the season.”

The Seamen remain arguably the most complete team in the league; they are well coached, physical and deep in all areas. If Parma hopes to stay on top the leaderboard entering the playoffs they will have to do more than they did in the first game as Milano will be coming to prove a point.

Make sure to watch the Panthers take on the Milano Seamen this coming Saturday on AFI.tv. Kickoff is 18:00 CET (6 pm, 12 noon ET).

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who has worked in B2B journalism and comms in the third sector; with experience in both education and human rights. He has played football for the London Warriors for the last 15 years as well as the