Monday, June 17, 2019

A FULL Day of American Football in Azzano San Paolo and Cernusco sul Naviglio

Saturday, 15 June, 2019

Game Day again in Lombardia!

It was the day of the Italian
DII Quarter-Finals

YOUR #7 seeded Varese Skorpions (7-2) were headed Cernusco sul Naviglio to take on the #2 seeded Cernusco Daemons (7-1).

The local newspaper was calling
for an exorcism vs. the Daemons

Our game did not kickoff until 9:00 p.m., so we had a lot of time to kill.

What to do?

Our Women's Flag team's tournament
tournament would be the perfect
elixir for our timing woes!

All 11 Italian clubs that field Women's Flag squads would be in attendance in Azzano San Paolo, a suburb of Bergamo. The Bergamo Lions club was hosting the tournament in what was a two day qualifying precursor of the National Championship Tournament in Catanzaro the weekend of June 29-30.

Our ladies would play two games today and two more on Sunday.

We arrived about 90 minutes before our team's first game so we popped into the nearby village of Stezzano to have a splendid lunch at the Ristorante-Pizzeria da Michele.

A Stezzano church statue . . .

. . . and another

Stezzano's mini-obelisk

Well nourished, we were off to the stadium to watch our ladies who entered the day atop Group A with a 5-1 record.

The temperatures were in the 90+°F range adding to the tournament's ambience.

The first game was against the 2018
National Championship runner-ups,
the Trieste Ranzide

Ranzide is local dialect in Trieste for rancid.

A unique team name to say the least.

The Ranzide jumped out to an early
lead but our squad fought back

It was a late arriving crowd

Skorpions on the attack!

Marta is the Skorpion
closest to us in this picture

She is one of our best players on both sides of the ball but was lost to us for most of the tournament.

Soon after this picture she was pass rushing the Ranzide QB and Marta's head collided with the QB's elbow which opened a gash in Marta's forehead.

As is normal with head wounds, blood flowed.

The doctors and EMT people on duty required six stitches to close the wound.

It would be tough sledding without her.

A pincher-like defensive move

Ranzide starburst play

Sofia playing DB

Sofia is our QB but had to take up the slack on Defense due to Marta's departure.

Tex is open in the flat!

The Skorpions ended up beating the Ranzide 20-13 in this game.

In the second game of the day, the Skorpions lost to Group B's best team, the Parma Panther's by a final score of 30-12.

The Skorpion's will play two more games on Sunday against the Palermo Mustangs and the Palermo Sharks.

Also playing in the tournament today were Group C's best squad and the 2018 defending National Champion Catania Pink Elephants.

That meant but one thing . . .

Valeria Guglielmino and Peppe Strano
would be at the tournament!

Our fun loving friends from those long ago years of coaching the Catania Elephants were in the house!

Valeria was the Pink Elephants QB until retiring after last season's title game and now serves as the Pink Elephants Defensive Coordinator.

Peppe was a great TE for our Elephants back in 2008 and 2009 and is now the Pink Elephants Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator.

I did say fun loving

We had a great time catching up with these two, we really need to get back to Sicily soon.

At halftime of our Women's second game we departed for Cernusco sul Naviglio about a 35 minute drive from Azzano San Paolo.

It was time to play a DII Quarter-Final game, let's set the stage . . .

Varese Skorpions
Third Place Group A
#7 Seed in the DII Playoffs
7 Wins - 2 Losses

Season Results
Beat the Busto Arsizio Blue Storms (0-8) 7-6
Lost to the Milano Rhinos (8-0) 10-24
Beat the Palermo Sharks (3-6) 28-21
Lost to the Cernusco Daemons (7-1) 14-20 OT
Beat the Desio Hammers (3-5) 35-12
Beat the Brescia Bengals (5-4) 58-43
Beat the Varese Gorillas (2-6) 14-6
Beat the Canavese Mastifs (3-6) 27-7
Beat the Palermo Sharks (3-6) 13-7*
*DII Wild Card Playoff Game


Cernusco Daemons
Second Place Group A
#2 Seed in the DII Playoffs
7 Wins - 1 Loss

Season Results
Beat the Canavese Mastifs (3-6) 42-0
Beat the Busto Arsizio Blue Storms (0-8) 24-9
Lost to the Milano Rhinos (8-0) 7-30
Beat the Varese Skorpions (7-2) 20-14 OT
Beat the Desio Hammers (3-5) 28-21 OT
Beat the Brescia Bengals (5-4) 35-14
Beat the Palermo Sharks (3-6) 31-20
Beat the Varese Gorillas (2-6) 32-0

A big GRAZIE, as always, to Laurie Contreras for taking all of the following photos.

Meeting with the refs
before the game

Omar and a Ref who has been
a Game Ball air pressure Fascist
every time we've had him, about
to battle again

The ref claimed that this
ball was too soft and started
to pump it up on his own

He just kept pumping more and more air into the foresaken ball until the bladder finally exploded.

We would proceed with one less Game Ball than was our custom.

Just another moment in the never ending competence of many our well meaning Italian referees. 

Skorpions final pre-game huddle

A full moon rising over
the Daemons home field

The Game was afoot!


Skorpions Ball: The first Varese drive was not a good one as we were forced into a Three and Out, Punt by the tenacious Daemons defense. Fortunately, Stefano Granelli got off a 40 yard punt that gave our defense solid field position.

Daemons Ball: The Varese defense was also up to the task forcing a Three and Out, Punt as well. A high punt snap combined with heavy Skorpion Punt Block team pressure forced the Cernusco punter to scramble and get off a rugby style punt that netted negative 5 yards. 

Cristian "Bumba" Bianchi
with a rare First Quarter carry

Skorpions Ball: Pass completions from Giacomo "Jack" Micheli to WR Riccardo de Micheli and RB Dylan Auriema got the Skorpions into the Red Zone for the first time but an interception at the six yard line snuffed out the Varese scoring opportunity.
Turnover #1.
Red Zone trip #1 produced zero Skorpion points.

Daemons Ball: The Daemons picked up a couple of first downs before punting the ball back to the Skorpions.

The Daemons' fashionably dressed
Chain Crew

Dylan on the Sweep with Bumba
leading the way

Skorpions Ball: Dylan ripped off a nifty 18 yard run to start the drive but a ten yard loss on a QB sack ended the First Quarter with the score knotted at 0-0.


Varese Ball: The Skorpions' drive that commenced in the First Quarter continued with no success. Stefano came up with another huge play for us booming a punt that finally died 70 yards down the field, putting the Daemons in a deep hole at their own ten yard line.

Jack going deep!

The Daemons running game was
a big concern to us

Cernusco Ball: The Daemons picked up a couple of first downs through the air but eventually punted. Stefano came up BIG again in the Kicking Game partially blocking the Daemons punt that travelled a mere 16 yards thanks to a positive Cernusco roll.

Varese Ball: WR Riccardo de Micheli continued to shine as the Skorpions entered the Red Zone for the second time in the First Half. The Cernusco defense stiffened again and the Skorpions lined up to attempt a 22 yard Field Goal. That is when all hell broke loose. Our Kicker apparently called for a fake, not his call, and our holder, whose call it was, put the ball down for the kick since he had called for it. After an agonizing second that saw our kicker running a Swing route and everybody else blocking for the kick, our holder realized that something was terribly wrong. He tried to go into the emergency Fire Call procedure but it was too late and a Daemon defender hit our holder hard enough to force a fumble that another Daemon scooped up and ran the ball all the way back to our three yard line. Long Snapper Andrea Mora did an amazing job running the length of the field to make the TD saving tackle. The complexion of the game had changed radically.
Turnover #2.
Red Zone trip #2 produced zero Skorpions points.

Stefano tackling a Daemon RB

The Battle in the Trenches

Cernusco Ball: As befits a good team, the Daemons wasted no time scoring the game's first point on a three yard TD run. A bad snap on the PAT forced the Daemons holder to scramble but our defense sacked him before any further damage occurred. The Daemons were in the lead at 6-0.

Varese Ball: Dylan returned the Daemons kickoff to our 45 yard line to give us good field position once again. This drive ended when the Daemons defense stopped our fourth down attempt.
Red Zone trip #3 produced zero Skorpion points.

Pursuing a scrambling
Daemons punter

Dylan running the ball inside

Cernusco Ball: The Daemons moved the ball out to their 30 yard line where they hit a WR Screen pass, their other WRs blocked well and we missed a couple of tackles in the open field resulting in another Cernusco TD. The Skorpions stopped the Daemons two point attempt but Cernusco's lead was now 12-0.

Varese Ball: We answered poorly with a Three and Out, Punt. Stefano boomed another good punt that traveled 40 yards.

Cernusco Ball: The Daemons were content to end the First Half by taking a knee. The score at the intermission favored the Daemons, 12-0.

Jack with decent pass protection

CB Federico Zanetta coming
up to help on the run


Daemons Ball: Stefano started the Second Half by kicking the ball into the end zone for a touchback. DE Davide Vuolo put heavy pressure on the Daemons QB forcing a pass that SS Emanuele "Masch" Mascelli intercepted.
Defensive Turnover #1.

Skorpions Ball: Rain, thunder and lightning were all now part of the mix. With the ball at the Cernusco 34 yard line, the Varese squad went for it on fourth down but again the Daemons defense made the play.

CB Federico Zanetta again
helping on the run

Pressuring a Daemons punt

Daemons Ball: Emboldened by their stout defensive effort, the Daemons stormed down the field and scored their third TD on a 29 yard run. The PAT kick was true and the Daemons were now in command with a 19-0 lead.

Skorpions Ball: The Skorpions drive unfortunately ended with an interception.
Turnover #3.

WR Matteo "Mozza" Mozzanica
on the receiving end of this pass

WR Martino Piazzi in the open field

Daemons Ball: The Cernusco offense was rolling and scored another TD, this time on a 15 yard run. The PAT was good and the Daemons were starting to think about the Semi-Finals next week with a 26-0 lead at this point.

Skorpions Ball: A Three and Out, Punt series that ended with a fake punt pass that was intercepted.
Turnover #4.

Stefano about to boom another punt

We were getting banged up
as the game progressed

Daemons Ball: Our defense was able to hold the Daemons to 32 yard Field Goal attempt that was true. The score was now Cernusco 29 - Varese 0.

Skorpions Ball: Due to multiple injuries, we had to use an inexperienced Kickoff return man who muffed the kickoff out of bounds at the five yard line. A penalty on our return team placed the ball at our own two yard line to start tis trip down the field as the Third Quarter came to an end with Cernusco ahead 29-0

DEs Davide Vuolo and Tomas Pedotti
pressuring the Daemons QB

Andrea Gorini leaving the field

This would be Andrea's last game as Italian rules mandate retirement from the game once you reach the tender age of 48.

Andrea has reached that arbitrary age.


Varese Ball: The Third Quarter drive continued with the Skorpions putting together a good, sustained drive thanks to the running of Sergio "Mizu" Montalbetti, the pass receiving of Martino Piazzi and Riccardo de Micheli and the scrambling of "Jack". We got the ball down to the Daemons ten yard line but threw another interception, this time in the end zone.
Turnover #5.
Red Zone trip #4 produced zero Skorpions points.

Cernusco Ball: We started to clear the bench in order to get some of our younger players some valuable playoff experience for the future. Our quiet and extremely steady CB Andrea Mora came up with another Big Play as he intercepted a Daemons pass at our five yard line and then returned it out to our 29 yard line  We were still playing hard despite the score.
Defensive Turnover #2.

Celebrating a third down stop

This punt was tipped by
#9 Stefano Granelli

Varese Ball: We had our back-up QB in with our back-up Center. On the first play of the drive our strong shot gun snap sailed WAY over our QB's head into the end zone 29 yards away where a Daemon fell on it for another six points. The PAT kick was good. The score board now favored the Daemons 36-0.
Turnover #6.

Play with Effort, Play with Courage
and Be Loyal to Each Other

WR Riccardo de Micheli
had a great game!

Finish with class and integrity

Helmet to Helmet Contact?

Dylan on another Sweep

Aiding an injured Daemon
off of our sideline

Yes, we run the Sweep a lot

Why not, we block it well

Launching another one

SS "Masch" tackling in the open field

Sometimes Dylan's speed makes
other players turn into blurs

LB Fabio "Stoppi" Stoppa
in self-defense mode vs. a bullet
pass from the Daemons QB

Varese Ball: The game ended with the Skorpions driving against the Daemons as time expired on Varese's first trip to an 11-man Quarter-Finals in 31 years with the Cernusco Daemons winning in dominating fashion.


This final result was not the way any of us wanted to end what had been a magnificent season of marked improvement, miraculous plays and lots of blood, sweat, and now, tears by our valiant team of Skorpions.

All credit to the Daemons who came out ready to play and made the plays that they needed to make, especially on defense.

Congratulating each Skorpion
for all of their efforts this year

A hug with our hard working
DE Nicola "Baffo" Ruggiero

WR Riccardo de Micheli
had a great season and a marvelous
game tonight

He quietly did all the things that a coach wants from any of his players.

I look forward to having him on the Skorpions again next year.

We were not the only Wild Card playoff game winner that struggled tonight in the Quarter-Finals.

The #4 seeded Reggio Emilia Hogs had no
trouble with the #5 seeded Verona Mastini

Neither did the #1 seeded Milano Rhinos
with the #8 seeded Brescia Bengals

Since the 2013 playoffs, the Wild Card playoff game winners are now a dismal 2-21 in the next round of the playoffs. Apparently, FIDAF officials do a good job annually picking the correct top four seeds in the playoffs.

The final Quarter-Final game will be played on Sunday in Rome between the #6 seeded Padova Saints (8-1) and the #3 seeded Roma Pretoriani (7-1).

As always . . .

It's GREAT to be a Skorpion!

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