Monday, April 14, 2008

The Bergamo Game

Bergamo's Osio Sotto Stadio Comunale

The Elephants taking the field

Matt Epperson on his 75 yard two point conversion interception

Matt Epperson on a screen pass

Gus in his improvised "wheel chair" at the Catania airport 

The Sunday of the Bergamo game started with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight to Verona on Wind Jet.  Even though it was the first flight of the day, it was still 30 minutes late taking off.  From Verona we took a very comfortable double-decker recliner bus ride 45 minutes to Bergamo with the mandatory smoke/food break in the middle.  We arrived at the Stadium about 4 hours before kickoff.  Although it had rained steadily during our bus ride and was a little cold and damp when we got to the stadium, it turned into a beautiful day to play American football by the 3:00 p.m. kickoff.

In a quirky note, Bergamo's field is only 90 yards long so when you kickoff from the 30 yard line, the return team is pretty much guaranteed great field position to start a drive.

The first half turned into a see-saw battle with both teams scoring at will.  Key defensive plays for the Elephants in the first half were turned by Roberto Conti and Christian Di Mauro who both recovered Bergamo fumbles.

At the end of the first quarter Bergamo had the lead 14-7.  The first quarter included a 20 minute delay after one of the Lions' players was injured and had to go to the hospital, we could not resume play until the ambulance returned.

In the second quarter, a total of 7 TD's were scored!  After Bergamo scored to go up 33-27, the Lions mishandled the PAT snap, the holder tried to lateral to the kicker but Matt Epperson picked it off and raced 75 yards to score a defensive 2 point conversion.  This cut the Lions' lead to 33-29 but we then turned the ball over with 2 seconds left in the half and Bergamo's QB, Kendrick Dozier, escaped the rush, scrambled and threw a TD pass with no time left in the half.  At the half, which lasted two hours, Bergamo led 40-29.

In the second half, Bergamo took over the game. The Elephants scored first to cut the Lions' lead to 40-35 but the Lions responded by scoring twice in the third quarter, including a spectacular, weaving 95 yards interception return for a TD by their free safety, Anthony Stallings.  After 3 periods Bergamo was up 54-35.

The final period had Bergamo scoring their 3rd and 4th unanswered TD's of the half to go up 68-35.  We did respond with one final drive late in the game to make the final score Bergamo 68 - Catania 41.

For the Elephants, it must be mentioned that Enrico Lombardi continues to impress me with his tough running style, he gets stronger as the game goes on.  I thought Claudio Mangano, Gregorio Barbagallo and Pepe Strano all caught the ball well for our QB Jason Johnson.  I was also very proud of Brandon Bennett's Iron Man performance, going both ways at offensive tackle and defensive end/nose guard almost the entire game, I wish we had a few more players with his mental toughness.  Matt Epperson was another bright spot for us receiving, returning kickoffs and playing defensive back.

As for Bergamo, they are a very good, well coached and talented team.  Besides their QB and free safety that I mentioned earlier, their WR Mohammed Mortazavi, out of the University of California at Davis, made some incredible plays as well.  The bottom line was that Bergamo made all the key plays when they needed to make them.

After the game we loaded up the bus for a 30 minute drive to the Milan airport.  We were stressed for time since the game lasted almost 4 hours even with a reduced 10 minute half time to help us get to the airport on time.  No problem, our Wind Jet flight was an hour late in taking off...imagine that!

We got back to Catania at about 11:00 p.m. but our day was not over yet.  Our teammate and friend, Gustavo Bonnano, suffered a leg injury on the last kickoff of the game.  From the airport in Catania, Christie, Jason and I drove him to the Emergency Room at the hospital in Cannizaro near Aci Castello.  After X-rays and fitting him with a cardboard brace, we drove him home at a about 3:00 a.m.

Next Sunday, we have to get back on track in our home opener against the Palermo Sharks.

No comments: