Monday, March 30, 2009

The Bergamo Game

Sunday morning wake up call at 0:dark30.  We flew out of Catania to Parma before loading on to a recliner "Pullman" bus for the 90 minute drive to Bergamo.

The northern portion of Italy is the economic hub of the "Boot", partly because of their fashion houses.


I had to go artsy for this shot at Parma's airport, the leopard skin coat caught my eye, but the boots... WOW, like something out of Munchkinland!

The Traditional Autogrill Pre-Game Meal Stop

Andrea Conticello, on the left is our videogapher, while his brother Riccardo, in the middle, is our starting cornerback.  Our nose guard Corrado DiMartino is on the right chowing down.  He actually made it out of the bathroom in time and did not miss the bus this week.  Corrado and Riccardo both played VERY good games for us.

The Gulisanos

Tony, "Call me Pony" #31, started at Falcon for us yesterday and played much better in this game.  His oldest son Eduardo is our team statistician.  Two GREAT reasons to be an Elephant!

When your cash window is closed, just put up a pizza to go box, simple as that!

The Game

First a little historical perspective on our opponents.  The Lions are in their 26th campaign as an organization.  During their first 25 seasons they have won three Euro Bowl Championships and 12 Italian National Championships including the 2007 and 2008 titles.  They are easily the team with which all aspiring franchises, like the Elephants, must be compared.

The weather again today was a factor as it was raining from the moment we got off the plane in Parma until we got back on the plane for the return flight in Milan 12 hours later.  At least this week it was not anywhere near as cold and there was no wind to speak of.

Before the game, we greeted some of the referees as they arrived including Denny Morris from Ohio who is here on another exchange between Mid-American Conference official and their IFL counterparts.  Somebody said they thought Denny is from the Big 10 Conference, I am not 100% sure.

With them was one of the very good Italian officials we had several times last season, Gennaro Brancaccio.  When he saw me we exchanged a handshake, hug and the traditional Italian double cheek kiss, left cheek first but of course.  I have never kissed a referee before or after a game until now.

Our WR Taber LeMarr was introduced to an Italian locker room staple, the toilet that isn't there.  Part squat routine, part aerial bombing from a B-17, it left quite an impact on all of us.

One final pre-game note, Saturday night was the change in Italy to daylight savings time.  Our starting Falcon did not get the word apparently and missed the flight, so it begins...

Catania takes the opening kickoff and is forced to punt.

Bergamo counters with a 15 yards scramble for a TD by their QB Littlejohn Bradshaw out of Morgan State.  Lions lead 7-0.

The Elephants next possesion ends when a pass is deflected and is intercepted by the Lions.

Bergamo is stymied by the Elephant defense and is forced to punt after going "Three and Out".

Catania stalls out again and punts.

The Lion's Bradshaw connects on a 20 yards pass for a TD, Lions up 14-0.

Catania is forced to punt again.

The Elephants' LB Salvo Sicali recovers a Bergamo fumble.

After one period, the Lions lead 14-0.

The Elephants' QB Luke Tracy hits Claudio Mangano, who had a great game, on a 10 yards TD pass.  The extra point is blocked but a great effort by holder Taber LeMarr buys time for Tony "Call me Pony" Gulisano to run down the potential two point return by the Lions at their 10 yard line.  Bergamo leads 14-6.

Bergamo goes "Three and Out" and has to punt.

Catania's Iron Man, Larry Atkinson, returns the Lions' punt about 65 yards for a TD!  Tracy hooks up with LeMarr for the two point play, the game is tied at 14-14.

The Lions answer back with Bradshaw sneaking the ball in from the one yard line. Bergamo regains the lead 21-14.

On the last play of the first half, Taber LeMarr makes a leaping catch of a Luke Tracy pass for a TD.  Andrea Maninno drills the PAT.

The game is tied at halftime 21-21.

The Elephants use a squib kick to start the second half and it accidently hits the a man in Bergamo's front line.  Salvo Sicali recovers his second fumble of the day.

The Lions defense responded to the challenge and Catania punts.

Lion QB Bradshaw breaks another big play this time from about 40 yards out for a TD, Bergamo now leads 28-21.

The Elephant's drive that started in the third quarter ends when the Lions stop the Catania drive deep in their territory on downs.

Bergamo's offense is again forced to punt.

Bergamo QB Littlejohn Bradshaw is now also playing Free Safety and picks off a pass that he returns 90 yards for a TD, Lions up 35-21.

The Elephants are intercepted again.

Bergamo is forced to punt or the fourth time in the game.

Catania's offense only has time for a couple of desparation plays as the clock expires.

FINAL SCORE: Bergamo 35 - Catania 21

Give credit to two athletes who played with great intensity in this game:

The Elephants' two-way star, Larry Atkinson who led the team in tackles, as well as for his punt return for a TD and several key offensive plays.

The Lions' Littlejohn Bradshaw accounted for all of the Bergamo touchdowns as he ran for three TDs, threw a TD pass and scored a TD on his interception return.

Up next for Catania is the home opener against the Bologna Warriors on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the the Catania University Sports Complx (C.U.S.).

The Pecoraro Boys

Gabrielle on the left is a missionary in Madagascar, their dad and our outstanding OLB Gianmarco after the game.

Reunion Time

Jason Johnson and his bride Christie along with Matt Epperson made the trip down to Bergamo with their Swarco Raiders teammate Alex Hoad.  The drive from Innsbruck, Austria took about three hours and it was GREAT to see them.

During our BYE week next week we are planning on traveling through Munich and the Bavarian section of Germany before swinging down to Innsbruck to see them again.  It should be fun

Laurie Says:  When arriving more than two hours before the game, which is appropriate for warm-ups, etc., I found myself in the rain under an awning with the Lion's head coach and a few players, as well as Katherine Bakos, the girlfriend of a new Lions DB #32 Eduardo Baptista. Katherine and I (as the only women) struck up a conversation (imagine that!).  We got out of the rain in a small cafe attached to the stadium, where we passed the next hour and one-half.  Katherine, a delightful person, is from Brazil and has been in Italy for five months.  We had a wonderful time discussing our travels and football, which she is learning.  We then moved to the covered (thank goodness) stadium, where we set up camp.  Not long after the game began Christie, Jason, Matt and Alex, as George described above, joined us. After introductions, the conversation quickly changed to Brazil, as Jason had recently returned from Brazil, as you may know.  Another international co-inky-dink.

All in all a long day, with good football and good friends -- old and new.


Ryan said...


Where does Littlejohn Bradshaw rank on your "Players you have coached against with unique names list?"

George said...


Right at the top along with Ontario H.S.'s 1978 tailback Thomas Jefferson who also played for Stanford University.

Though not a player, I had a student at Washington H.S. in Los Angeles in 1970 named Pearl Harbor.

George Washington Contreras

DPLassen said...

From a very passing reference, I'm going to assume Taber has now been introduced to the glories of the squat toilet, which I encountered all too often in China (although never in a time of extreme need).

That being the case, you (and he) should read this, which I wish i had written:

George said...

David P. Lassen,

Now THAT was funny!!!

I'll pass it on to all of the Americanos.


Ryan said...


You have given me an idea, if my next kid (who is due today bye the way) is a boy, I think I am going to go with the name, Barrack Brucker. Don't you think a kid with that name is destined to score at least 10 TD's in a HS career? Really enjoying your blog again this year. Good Luck.

Ryan Brucker