Graphics: Igor Lazarevic
The new name Italian Football League (IFL), Italy first division, will begin on Saturday March 5 for a regular season of 13 weeks.
The 2021 Italian the premier league has proven to be one of the most competitive and exciting leagues that Europe had to offer. Despite countless close matches, the Parma Panthers managed to win and remain undefeated, beating the famous Milan Sailors three times to claim Italian bowl.
With the rebranding came the addition of the modern vipers and Mastini Verona, both promoted from the second league, making IFL a nine-team league. Unlike the rest of Europethe Italian league has remained almost entirely intact since the emergence of the magnetic league, the European Football League (ELF).
With domestic players retained (following severe player restrictions), the IFL should be just as exciting as last year.
Parma Panthers: 2021 record – 10-0 – Italian champions
In 2021, the Parma Panthers went wild unbeaten against Italy, winning the Italian Bowl for the first time in eight years.
In the lead is head coach Marc Mattioli, who used an array of different weapons to beat defending champions Milano Seamen on three occasions. With an almost identical roster, expect the Panthers to be favorites to win the league again.
Milano Seamen: record 2021 – 7-3 – Italian Bowl runner-up
Winning five of the last six Italian bowls, the Milano Seamen were heavy favorites in the IFL in 2021. With the addition of Italian star receiver Jordan Bouah and the return of QB Luke Zahradka, the cards looked set.
But despite the league’s best defense and an average offense of more than 35 points per game, they fell short against the Panthers three times.
This year the Sailors have lost a few of those key 2021 domestic additions. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from what was a disappointing season for them last year.
Firenze Guelfi: Results 2021 – 4-5 – Semi-finalist
Three of Guelfi’s five defeats last year were decided by a scoreline. Their unconventional offense proved difficult to manage and tied them for first in touchdowns in the league last year, earning them a playoff berth last year.
The team has excelled over the past few years with high quality imports and makeshift play. Their rambling personalities will surely keep them ahead of the playoffs this year. If Art Briles coaches the team as advertised, all bets are off. Under Briles in 2019, the Guelfi reached the league game.
Lazio Ducks: 2021 record – 4-5 – Semi-finalist
In 2021, Lazio had one of the league’s many outstanding receivers, Matt Hazel. Under head coach Dan Pippin, the former NFL product averaged 140 yards per game and scored 10 touchdowns during the season. He was aided by QB Luke Casey who has since left to pursue high-level high school coaching work at Dematha.
Casey’s replacement this year will be European Football League Berlin Thunder QB Calvin Stitt.
Dolphins of Ancona: record 2021 – 3-5 – Finished 5th
Ancona were unable to achieve consistency in the passing game last year despite having one of the best defenses in the league.
American-Italian QB Collin De Galbo will be back this year looking to build on the success he had last year in his first year abroad. As well as De Galbo, the squad will be joined by do-it-all Euro all-star William James – who will return to ELF before the end of the Italian season.
Warriors Bologna: Record 2021 – 2-6 – Finished 6th
The Warriors struggled to get things going last year after a one-week win over the Milan Rhinos.
Head coach Giorgio Longhi brought in a number of newcomers this year, including Canadian-Italian quarterback Gabriel Cousineau in hopes of making the playoffs.
Rhinos Milano: record 2021 – 1-7 – Finished 7th
Despite losing almost every game last year, the Rhinos put on a show. American-Italian QB Giovanni Rescigno and Hawaiian product Jason Sharsh teamed up to be nearly unstoppable. Sharsh had an eye-popping 1,300 yards in just eight games, leading the league in nearly every category.
This was however not enough to win matches. The team will have to solve some problems. Hoping to fill some of those holes, imported linebacker Aaron Ortiz from Sioux Falls (NCAA DII).
Modena Vipers: Record 2021 – 8-1 (Division 2) – Newly promoted
One of the two newly added teams are the Modena Vipers who were near perfect in Division 2 last year. The Vipers placed in the middle of the table in almost every category, but still managed to knock out top-seeded Giaguari Torino in the final game of the season.
To help them through their journey to Italy’s top league, Vipers head coach Christian Nobile signed former Ohio State QB Danny Vanatsky. This mammoth signing has turned many heads in Italy and will undoubtedly be on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list.
Mastini Verona: Record 2021 – 7-1 (Division 2) – Newly promoted
One of the highest scoring Division 2 offenses of 2021 has been the Mastini Vipers. Averaging over 35 points per game, they went undefeated before falling to Giaguari Torino in the playoffs.
Now with former Colby College QB (NCAA DIII) Justin Ciero, the team is looking to build on the success they had with a strong rushing offense to make a splash in the IFL.