Parma Panthers RB Nick Diaco #11 Photo: Dario Fumagalli
In a battle of the Italian titans, the Parma Panthers secured yet another close victory over the Milano Seamen before the two teams head into the playoffs, edging the Seamen 30-27 in. Parma.
This was the second tight game between the two this season as the Panthers had beaten Milano 22-20 in the season opener.
In this one, both teams came out running the ball in an attempt to settle their nerves as each knew that the stakes were high; the Seamen definitely had revenge in mind following their first defeat while Parma was feeling the weight of being undefeated.
It would be Panthers wide receiver Simone Alinovi (#20) who would make his presence felt early on offense and defense with key third-down stops and receptions, but an errant throw from Parma QB Reilly Hennessey went straight into the waiting arms of Seamen safety Flavio Piccinni (#36), giving Milan great field position. On the very next play, Seamen QB Luke Zahradka (#7) hit Ismail Lanamra (#11) on a slant-route straight into the endzone to put them on top early.
On the following Seamen drive, a break-out run from the running resulted in a fumble and a change in momentum and yet another chance for Alinovi to imprint himself on the game. On the Seamen 15 yard-line Hennessey then threw a dart to Alinovi on a hitch route who then gave the corner a little shake-and-bake before running into the endzone to tie things up in Parma.
The Seamen would make use of import DB Jeremiah Johnson (#18) at tailback on the ensuing drive as an Asantay Brown-less (Parma LB) defense would be unable to stop the run. Johnson ran the ball in from the 18 yard line to again put the Seamen in front.
Alinovi continued to make big-time plays down the field to put Parma in great field position before putting in the borderline unstoppable short-yardage wildcat squad, led my Nick Diaco (#11). Diaco punched the ball in from inside the 10 to keep the scores ticking over. After a Seamen non-starter drive, Parma got the ball back with Diaco and Alinovi eating up huge chunks of yardage at a time with dimes from Hennessey, but were unable to punch it in and had to settle for three. This would close the half out 17 – 14 Parma.
The opening Seamen drive in the second half would see Zahradka throw two interceptions, but both would get called back for roughing the passer – along with two additional 15-yard penalties – allowing Milan to work their way down the field. The drive culminated in a three-yard scramble by Zahradka to bring the score to 21 – 17 in the Seamen’s favor.
This lead was not held for long however as Parma was able to put together a diverse attack on the following drive through both the air and on the ground ending with Diaco wildcatting it in in perfect fashion for the score. The third quarter would end in what had been a thrilling game with the score sitting at 23 – 21. Panthers – but the excitement was far from over.
Milano’s defense would dig their heels in for the remainder of the fourth quarter giving Zahradka and his offense the chance to finally get revenge on the team that handed them the first and only loss of the season. On a drive that was marked by a dexterous sideline grab from Jordan Bouha (#1) to keep the drive alive, the Seamen managed to get themselves into scoring position. This drive was again saved by (less questionable) penalties against the Panthers that allowed Zahradka to leap over into the endzone from the one-yard line to bring the score to 27 – 23 Seamen late in the fourth quarter.
After two negligible drives from the two sides, the Panthers were to get one final shot at the endzone. The drive started with Hennessey delivering accurately to Alinovi, Diaco and Matteo Bonzanni (#80) to get them to the Seamen 20 before the Milano defense again refused to budge. And then on third down with the game on the line, Hennessey hit who else but Alinovi on a corner route to seal the victory for the Panthers.
Parma have again shown what a well rounded clutch team they are and what a threat not only their imports are but also their Italians. The Seamen may now start questioning themselves but should remember that in each game it has come down to the wire and that we all expect the final to be the same. One thing we should expect differently in the final however is the attention that is paid to Alinovi who has now twice broken the hearts of Milano Seamen.