Parma Panthers down Lazio Ducks in Rome to clinch first place in Italy’s top league

This week’s Italian League Division 1 match-up saw two offensive juggernauts go head to head but in the end only one team put on an offensive show as the visiting Parma Panthers downed the Lazio Ducks from Rome 40-26 to remain unbeaten.

Going into the game, the top-of-the-table Parma Panthers had looked unbeatable after knocking off favorites Milano Seamen early in the season and dominating opponents ever since while the Lazio Ducks have struggled in the win column despite looking dominant offensively.

Parma QB Rielly Hennessey (#12) and receiver Nick Diaco (#11) came out swinging after receiving the opening kickoff. The team drove down the field in only a few plays before running back Allessandro Malpeli Avalli (#33) was able to punch it in on a 20-yard draw in what looked like business as usual.

The Ducks came out as expected and gave the ball straight to ex-NFL veteran Matt Hazel (#4). QB Luke Casey (#8) has been slinging the rock about all season leading to the offense averaging over 400 yards per game. A number of short and intermediate routes got the Ducks down to Parma’s 20-yard line but were unable to convert on fourth-down.

Parma RB Allessandro Malpeli Avalli rushed for 109 yards and 2 TDS #33 Photo: Sophia Sperandio

The Panthers kept with the same formula feeding both Diaco and Malpeli Avalli until receiver Dario Zatti (#88) broke off a 30-yard run on a drag route to get them back into the redzone. Parma’s dangerous wildcat offense then ran the ball in from inside the five bringing the Panthers ahead 14 – 0.

The following drive started in a pedestrian manner with another Ducks punt looming until Casey launched a 60-yard bomb to Adalberto Rinaldi (#16) bringing Lazio deep into Parma territory. But, again, Lazio came up short as failing to finish started to become a motif on the day for a frustrated Ducks side.

Parma had to start with the ball on their own one-yard line but on the second play of the drive Hennessey connected with Italian baller Simone Alinovi (#20) on a go-route to devour the entire 99-yards. Parma had now extended their lead to 21 – 0 in only the first-quarter in what felt like a game starting to get out of hand.

After a pick by Parma safety Marcello Leone (#24) the Panthers offense drove down the field before settling for a 30-yard field goal from kicker Matteo Feli (#10).

Ducks had at this point gone for it on fourth-down every drive in Parma’s half. Feeling the pressure of the Parma offense the Ducks continued to go for it on fourth in their own half leading to a bad situation worsening. Mid-way through the second quarter Parma were up 27 – 0 before Casey and Hazel were finally able to cash in on a 60-yard deep ball bringing the score to a more respectable 27 – 7.

The half would be closed out by a number of back-and-forths between each team.

The Ducks came out with a renewed sense vigor in the second-half. Casey again looked for Hazel to provide the spark and he did just that by breaking off a 30-yard run whilst running through LB Asantay Brown (#2). Hazel finished the drive off himself with a 1-yard back-corner fade to make it 14 – 7.

A negligible drive for Parma gave the ball straight back to Casey and the Ducks where their high-powered offense proceeded to go to work. A varied aerial attack spread the ball around before receiver Tommaso Pozzebon (#83) was able to go in for the score making it just a seven-point game.

Lazio Ducks WR Matt Hazel #4 caught 12 passes for 158 yards and 2 TDs Photo: Sophia Sperandio

Dropped balls and inaccuracy made Parma look vulnerable for the first time in the season on the ensuing drives. But then Diaco decided to lead the charge after going back in at wildcat ripping off huge chunks of yardage each play before running back Malpeli Avalli was able to run it in for the score putting the Panthers back in a comfortable lead.

The next two drives Lazio and Parma traded touchdown blows with a 80-yard bomb from Casey

to Rinaldi and a 65-yard’er from Hennessey to Alinovi keeping the point differential the same and closing the game out 40 – 26 Parma.

Both offenses showed impressive resolve and ability in the matchup, but it was ultimately the Parma defense who were able to bend but not break on a number of drives, keeping the Lazio offense to an uncharacteristic 26 points. Each team will play their final game next weekend with Lazio facing off against the Seamen and Parma against Bologna. It will be hard to imagine much change to the leaderboards come next week Sunday when it is all said and done.

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 Great Britain squad and spent time in Europe playing in the Maple League and FIDAF.