Sunday, June 9, 2019

The 2019 Italian DII American Football Playoffs BEGIN!

Saturday, 8 June, 2019

Finally it was time, the Wild Card round of the 2019 Italian DII American Football Playoffs began today with eight teams battling to get into the Quarter-Final next week while the top four seeded teams enjoyed another week of rest.

Yes, it was indeed . . .

 . . . for YOUR Skorpions

 A 9:30 p.m. Kickoff was necessary
because the Palermo QB had to work
all day and was arriving solo into
Milano's Lainate Airport at about 7:45 p.m.

It must be a BIG game as we made
it onto Page 41 of the local newspaper!

In the morning, I met with other Skorpion leaders to help line the field and clean up the Skorpion Field complex in preparation for the evening's festivities.

Meanwhile . . .

Laurie was busy expanding her
growing shoe empire!

She was aided and abetted by Santa Barbara and Federica Nardi.

Two bad influences.

 On to the GAME!

A quick look at tonight's four
Would Card games

According to the Las Vegas oddsmakers,
the four favorites were the Padova, Verona,
Brescia and Varese

Let's focus on our game . . .

The Palermo Sharks
#10 seeded playoff team
Tied for Fifth Place in Group A
3 Wins - 5 Losses

2019 Sharks Results
Beat the Brescia Bengals (4-4) 24-20
Lost to the Varese Gorillas (2-6) 20-35
Lost to the Varese Skorpions (6-2) 21-28
Beat the Canavese Mastifs (3-5) 20-14
Beat the Busto Arsizio Blue Storms (0-8) 24-7
Lost to the Milano Rhinos (8-0) 29-40
Lost to the Cernusco Daemons (7-1) 20-31
Lost to the Desio Hammers (3-5) 7-12


The Varese Skorpions
#7 seeded playoff team
Third Place Place in Group A
6 Wins - 2 Losses

2019 Skorpions Results
Beat the Busto Arsizio Blue Storms (0-8) 7-6
Lost to the Milano Rhinos (8-0) 10-24
Beat the Palermo Sharks (3-5) 28-21
Lost to the Cernusco Daemons (7-1) 14-20 OT
Beat the Desio Hammers (3-5) 35-12
Beat the Brescia Bengals (4-4) 58-43
Beat the Varese Gorillas (2-6) 14-6
Beat the Canavese Mastifs (3-5) 27-7

Skorpion Field looked GREAT
for today's Group A rematch!

It was Prosecco Time for the Skorpions'
Leadership Group but not for me


U17 National Championship Tournament
Co-MVP last weekend, Prima Squadra
Ball Boy this weekend

That's our Volo!

Nice haircut by the way.

Skorpions warming-up

DAMN, the field looks GREAT!

 Helmets off while the Referees
check our roster vs. our live bodies

No ringers allowed!

One last huddle before . . .

. . . lining up to honor our U17 National 
Flag Team Champions 
The U13 and U15 teams were also  
recognized for their efforts this season

U13, U15 and U17 players lining
our entryway to Skorpion Field

I'm not a big fan of
the fog machine . . .

. . . but the Skorpion players
LOVE them!

They love road flares too it would seem.


Stampeding past Laurie

 Some live action footage
of our smoky entrance

OC Omar Passera warming
up one of our receivers

 The 24 mentally and physically tough
Sharks that made the trip from Palermo

Practicing my friendly Italian hand
gestures with the ref before the game

Finally, and on time, we kicked off the playoffs!


Sharks Ball: We started the game with a fantastic effort from Manuel "Biondo" Bulgheroni who tackled the Palermo return man at the ten yard line! After trading off-sides penalties, the Sharks tried a Screen Pass that was read perfectly by SS Emanuele "Masch" Mascelli who forced a fumble. DE Tomas "Man" Pedotti scooped the fumble up and rumbled about ten yards into the end zone for the game's first score. Stefano Granelli added the PAT and the Skorpions led 7-0.

Great Defensive Field position
to start the playoff game

 Masch forcing the fumble that . . .

. . . led to our Defensive TD!

Stefano's Extra Point was PERFECT!

Sharks Ball: We had another great Kickoff Coverage effort, this time from Federico Gomiero who violently tackled the Palermo return man at the 15 yard line! We lost our focus a bit when were given a warranted 15 yard dead ball unsportsmanlike foul penalty but forced a punt three plays later. Dylan Auriema had a good Punt Return that gave us solid field position to start our first Offensive drive of the night.

Federico Gomiero's tackle . . .

. . . on the game's second Kickoff

Great Field Position AGAIN!

Skorpions Ball: Dylan was just as effective running the ball on this drive with the help of some great blocking by Offensive Tackle Nicolo "Niko" Moruzzi. Unfortunately this drive stalled but Punter Stefano Granelli hit a great pooch punt that was downed by Gunner Matteo "Mozza" Mozzanica at the Sharks three yard line!

GREAT pressure on the Sharks QB

For the night, the Sharks only completed seven of their 16 passes good for 94 yards with no TDs and no interceptions.

Dylan running the Rock!

Sharks Ball: The Sharks started to move the ball picking upon a couple of First Downs along the way but LB Stefano Granelli made a huge QB Sack as the First Quarter ended with the Skorpions leading by the slim margin of 7-0.

I hope that crane is strong enough

Skorpions swarming to the ball


Palermo Ball: The Sharks drive that started in the First Quarter continued but was thwarted by another QB Sack, this time by DE Davide Vuolo on a QB scramble. On Fourth Down the Sharks faked a punt but our heavy punt block rush forced an off-balance throw that harmlessly landed on the grass.  

DE Davide Vuolo rushing the QB

Dylan Auriema with lots of
green grass in front of him

Varese Ball: We moved the ball at will until a holding call followed immediately by a QB Sack. Dylan came through with a fine run on a Counter play that got most of our lost yardage back but we had to settle for 39 yard Field Goal attempt that sailed wide left.

I was getting concerned that
we were letting the Sharks hang
around in the game way too long

Heavy pressure by DE Tomas Pedotti
on the Sharks Punter who attempted
a pass on a failed fake punt

Palermo Ball: A -7 yard tackle for loss by DE Davide Vuolo set the tone for this drive. It was followed by tremendous punt rush pressure by DE Tomas Pedotti as the Sharks attempted another fake punt pass that was again incomplete.

WR Martino Piazzi in the open field
on a 20 yard gain

Varese Ball: QB Giacomo "Jack" Micheli found an open WR Martino Piazzi for a big gain to start this drive but back-to-back QB Sacks led to another punt. Punter Stefano Granelli came through again with a boomer that the Sharks punt returner muffed causing a mad scramble as our two Gunners were right there to make the Big Play we needed but the Sharks came up with the ball. 

There were multiple flags on this play that broke down to three dead ball penalties, two on us and one on them.

Off-setting penalties, of course, but not in Italy on this fine night. The White Hat said that through the use of the famed New Math, the first penalty on each team cancelled each other out but the remaining one on us counted. Thus the Sharks picked up 15 yards of valuable real estate over my protestations.

After the half time break, the White Hat apologized for his mistake and said he owed us 15 yards, whatever that meant.

The scramble for the muffed punt
including the Sharks punt returner
being blocked out of the way

How did we not recover this muffed punt?

Discussing the New Math calmly
with the White Hat

GREAT effort on this pass rush
by DE Tomas Pedotti!

Palermo Ball: Aided by a holding call on a Sharks lineman and a late 1980's L.A. Rams QB Jim Everett-style phantom Sack, the Second Quarter ended with the Skorpions still ahead 7-0.

The Phantom Sack

The Sharks QB with a harmless
scramble as time expires
in the First Half 


Skorpions Ball: Masch ran the Sharks Kickoff back to the 36 yard line and then Jack hit Mozza on a Slant pass for 20 yards. Dylan ripped off another 20 yards on a Sweep but again the Sharks Defense stiffened deep in their own territory with a huge QB Sack. Again it was Stefano to the rescue with another pooch punt that was downed at the two yard line by Gunner Mozza.

Pad Under Pad

 OC Omar Passera and QB Jack
discussing . . .

. . . another scoring opportunity

Sharks Ball: Our Defense came to play forcing a much needed Three and Out, Punt!

 Cristian "Bumba" Bianchi
on a Fullback Dive Play

Skorpions Ball: WR Riccardo De Micheli made a clutch Third Down catch for 20 yards but once again a subsequent holding call deep in Sharks territory led to any incomplete Fourth Down pass to turn the ball over on downs.

Sharks Ball: The Sharks hit a simple Swing Pass but poor tackling by our Defense led to a big gain for boys from Sicily. Next one of their WRs made a spectacular diving catch on a pass that picked up 29 yards and a First and Goal on the one yard  line. Our Defense repelled their first two attempts to score as the Third Quarter ended with the Skorpions still leading 7-0.


Third and Goal for the Sharks

Palermo Ball: The Sharks best drive of the night that commenced in the Third Quarter continued. On the first play of the final stanza, the Sharks QB Sneak got the ball into the end zone for a TD. The PAT was good despite a good PAT rush by the Skorpions. The game was tied at 7-7.

The Sharks kicker was true despite
our solid pressure

Varese Ball: Our Kicking Game came through again with a fantastic Kickoff Return by Dylan all the way to the Palermo 36 yard line. Again the Sharks Defense fought off our threat that ended with an incomplete pass on a fake punt of our own.

Pitch to an unseen Dylan
with Bumba leading the way

Palermo Ball: A QB Sack and a great broken up pass on Third Down by CB Federico Zanetta forced another Three and Out, Punt!

Varese Ball: Dylan was running well again but another holding call threatened to halt this promising drive. Then it happened, the BIG play that we so desperately needed! QB Jack threw a perfect Post Pass to WR Martino Piazzi good for a 54 yard TD pass! Our PAT attempt went wide but we had recaptured the lead deep into the Fourth Quarter, 13-7.

Palermo Ball: We had good Kickoff Coverage again, making the tackle at the Sharks 27 yard line. Our Defense played great in forcing another Three and Out, Punt! It was our third one of the Second Half.

Varese Ball: It was "BUMBA TIME!" Our excellent Running Backs Coach has doubled as our Fullback all season long due to a litany of injuries at the RB position. As has become his custom, he thrives on tough, clock killing runs in the Fourth Quarter. He was at it again in the game's last drive. With about 90 seconds left in the game and the Sharks still in possession of a timeout, one of their players got hurt and the game stopped for about five minutes. Their coach asked us to take a knee to end the game in consideration of their battered players promising not to use his final timeout. We agreed to honor his request.  Victory Formation, Take A Knee twice and the game was ours.

 Explaining the Agreement to the
team before the Kneel Downs started

 Enzo making sure that I looked
good before the traditional
hand shaking line

 Discussing who should
receive the Game Hammer Award

It really should be a Defensive player we all agreed.

The Final Score
favored the Skorpions

Thus our Skorpions (7-2) will play in next weekend's Quarter-Finals in another Group A rematch, this time with the #2 seeded Cernusco Daemons (7-1).

The Daemons won our first meeting in Overtime by a score of 20-14. We will have to really step up our game in order to compete with the Daemons in just a week.

We played great Defense and did lots of wonderful things in our Kicking Game! These are the things that are important in the playoffs. Obviously, we need to pick it up on Offense if we are to make a deeper run into the 2019 DII playoffs.

Much credit must be given to the Sharks who flat out did what every coach wants of his squad, they played with great heart and effort from start to finish. Our superior numbers once again was a key factor against this tough team of Sicilians.

Giving Thanks to the Crowd

Il Destino . . .

Reviewing the game

The fact that this was the Skorpions first 11-man football home game and playoff victory since 1988 made the game historic in Skorpion history.

During that 31 year 11-man playoff dry spell, there were moments of playoff success when the club dropped down to nine-man DIII American football.

DE Davide Vuolo won
the Game Hammer Award

Post-game with the Sharks
La Porta brothers, Gino and Mauro

Two great men who played for us back in 2009 when I was the Head Coach of the DI Catania Elephants.

Mauro played for the Sharks in our first game back in March while Gino was only coaching.

Injuries to the Sharks had forced Gino back onto the field tonight.

A happy, post-game
RB Dylan Auriema

His 15 carries for 104 yards, a 6.9 yard per carry average, were key to our win.

He is a WARRIOR once he dons his pads.

The game ended near midnight, but the party at Skorpion Field was just beginning . . .

We left at about 1:30 a.m.

The fun went on until about 4:00 a.m. I was told.

Let's take a look at the other three DII Wild Card games tonight . . .

The Padova Saints nipped
the Sarzana Red Jackets

The #6 seeded Group B Padova Saints (8-1) travel to play the #3 seeded Group C Roma Pretoriani (7-1) in the Quarter-Finals next week.

The Verona Mastini clobbered
the Canavese Mastifs

Up next for the #5 seeded Group B Verona Mastini (8-1) is a Quarter-Final road trip to face off with the #4 seeded Group C Reggio Emilia Hogs (7-1).

The Brescia Bengals had no trouble
with the Ferrara Aquile

The Quarter-Finals match-up for the #8 seeded Brescia Bengals (5-4) will be a Group A rematch with the #1 seeded Milano Rhinos (8-0).

The Rhinos won their first meeting easily 49-6.

The 2019 Italian DII
Playoff Brackets going into
the Quarter-Finals next weekend

Let the Fun and Games . . .


David said...

Sounds like a tremendous effort on both sides. And it seems like special teams were huge for you again in this game. Is this the best special-teams play, on a consistent basis, you've had in EuroBall?

George said...


Both teams did play with GREAT effort to be sure as any playoff game should be played.

As for our Kicking Game, I think you are correct. We spend a HUGE amount of time on our Kicking Game daily and in Year Two, the Skorpions have come to really believe in its value. I'm guessing that in our 12 wins over the last two seasons that the Kicking Game has been the difference in at least six of those victories.