The Milano Seamen fell behind early and battled their way back to finally defeat their crosstown rivals Milano Rhinos 32-25 in a rematch of the 2017 Italian championship game Sunday.
Paced by three touchdowns by wide receiver Xavier Mitchell, the Seamen overcame an early 13-0 deficit and then hung on in the final quarter to earn their second straight win in Italy’s Division I.
Seamen quarterback Luke Zahradaka threw five touchdown passes, three of them to Mitchell and one each to Stefano Di Tunisi and Danilo Bonaparte.
Kevin Ellison threw four touchdown passes for the Rhinos, two to Giacomo Bonanno and one each to Pietro Elmi and Giacomo Querzola.
Ellison and the Rhinos stunned the Seamen early as the quarterback led his team to a 13-0 first quarter lead and then engineered a 12-0 fourth quarter to put a scare into the Seamen.
In between though, Zahradaka and the rest of the offense, including Mitchell, who proved why he had such a key receiver in Germany, dominated. Mitchell was the leading receiver/returner for the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in 2017 and led the German Football League with 96 receptions for 1,377 yards.
On this day, he and Zahradaka definitely connected. Early in the second quarter, with the Seamen trailing 13-0, Mitchell caught two touchdown passes from Zahradaka while Di Tunisi, caught a third to give the Seamen a 20-13 lead at halftime.
The Seamen continued the onslaught in the third quarter as first Bonaparte and then Mitchell again, caught touchdown passes from Zahradaka. Holding a commanding 32-13 lead going into the fourth quarter, the Seamen seemed to relax and Ellison and the Rhinos made them pay with Elmi and Bonanno hauling in touchdown passes from Ellison to pull to within seven, 32-25.
Then with almost no time left, Seamen defensive back Paul Morant sealed the win as he picked off an Ellison pass in the end zone to snuff out the Rhino’s final drive.
With the win, the Seamen improve to 2-0 while the Rhinos drop to 0-3.