Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Mystique of the Parma Panthers

The Mystique of the Parma Panthers

By Wendy Marvell
The Daily Magi
August 14, 2068

The Parma Panthers are an American football team based in Parma, Italy that competes in the Italian Serie A and the Europe-wide EFL Eurobowl. The team was founded in 1980 by Vic Dasaro, an American veterinary student attending university in Parma. Dasaro created the team from an amalgam of power lifters from a local high school gym, ex-rugby players, other vet students, and a mixed bunch of soccer goalies, track and field athletes, and local kids who had seen football on the occasional TV broadcast and liked the helmet and shoulderpad look. The team is now built on longtime IFL veterans and young players from the Panthers' own youth teams, with still a healthy contingent of University of Parma students. In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 Panthers won the title of Italian champion by beating respectively Catania Elephants, Bologna Warriors, Catania Elephants and Milano Seamen.

2010 - After 2 seasons, Ryan Tully leaves the Panthers and is replaced by LB/RB Greg Hay, while Craddock and McIntyre state that they will be back for another year. The roster also sees the addition of several young players, including several from the youth teams, and others from the Bobcats of Parma and Drunken Irishmen of Massa. The team showcases tremendous talent and team spirit, supported by a perfect mix of rookies and veterans. With a run of 7 consecutive victories, the Panthers would receive a first round bye to the semi-finals in the playoffs. With the Americans resting for the playoffs, the Panthers would stumble and suffer their only defeat in the league play, finishing with a record of 7-1. Their semifinal opponent the Giants, are the previous year’s Italian Champions. After a traumatic start (down 14-0 in the first few minutes), the Panthers came back to win (21-20), and punched their ticket for a third Super Bowl appearance in 5 years. In the Super Bowl the Panthers would have a rematch against the Elephants, the only team to beat them in regular season. The black-silver start strong, jumping out to a lead of 35-0 by the second quarter. But taking advantage of mistakes made by Parma, the Elephants mount their comeback (35-26) midway through the third quarter. The Panthers attack was led by the phenomenal play of Joe Craddock, and the offense finds their rhythm that had been so excellent throughout the regular season. At the same time the defense goes back to being an impenetrable wall. The Panthers stretch their lead to 56-26, sailing towards their first title. The MVP of the game was Greg Hay, while Michele Canali is named the game’s Defensive MVP. Kicker Andrea Vergazzoli won the title of Best Kicker for the season. Parma also boasted national player recognition for Tommaso Antonetti (RT), Enrico Bergonzani (TE), Michele Canali (DE), Matteo Ferrari (C), Nicola Francani (CB), Michele Fumarola (CB), Nicola Gasparri (WR), Tommaso Monardi (QB), Francesco Vasini (DB) and Andrea Vergazzoli (K).

2011- The Panthers welcome three new Americans to wear the black and silver: RB Jaycen Taylor Spears, WR Tanyon Bissell and DB Nathan Lyles. QB Tommaso Monardi is promoted to the starter for the Panthers; Monardi is the former quarterback for the National Under-21 team. Monardi’s promotion to starting quarterback gives the Panthers the only starting Italian QB in the league. The team's defense is enhanced by a bounty of great experience like DL Diego Gennaro, captain of the national team and who previously played for the Bolzano Giants. In Kick-Off Classic, the Panthers are beaten 54-51 by the Catania Elephants. After a slow start, the Panthers string together three wins in a row (against the Doves, Dolphins and Giants) before hitting the second defeat of the season, against the Warriors of Bologna. After this second setback, the Panthers went on another three game streak against the Marines, Rhinos and Seamen, finishing the regular season in second place. In the playoffs the black-silver had their chance to avenge both of their defeats in the regular season. First they defeated the Elephants in the semi-final and then the Warriors during the Italian Super Bowl. In the splendid setting of stadium XXV Aprile, the Panthers are crowned Italian Champions for the second year in a row. The MVP of the game was Panthers WR Bissell. QB Monardi received the award for best Italian player, while DE Michele Canali is named the best defensive lineman. At the end of his first season as a starter, Monardi went 108/169, for 1400 yards, 26 touchdowns and two interceptions. Michele Canali impressive season ended with 17.5 sacks. At the European level, the team’s first adventure in the Euro Bowl, the journey of the Panthers stops in the group stage. They recorded a victory against the Spanish Pioneers and were then defeated by the Swiss Calanda Broncos.

2012 - The team welcomed two new Americans: Kevin Grayson (WR) and Tyrell Sales (LB), while RB Jaycen Taylor Spears returned to the team for another season. During the season the Panthers suffered only two defeats, the first against the Giants of Bolzano in week 2, and then against the Catania Elephants in week 6. They finished the season in second place, behind the Catania Elephants. The Super Bowl was played in Varese, which is neutral site between the two teams. The Panthers were triumphant by a score of 61 to 43, leading to the Panthers third consecutive Italian Football League championship. The MVP of the game was awarded to WR Kevin Grayson.

2013 - Bringing in three new Americans for the 2013 campaign, the Panthers welcome Jared Karstetter (WR/DB), Ryan Christian (RB/DB), and Ben Johnson (LB/TE). With a strong core that had been mostly been together for a few years and as many championships, the Panthers looked to continue their dominance of the IFL. With an offense led by QB Tommaso Monardi and a slew of veteran playmakers, and a defense anchored by veteran linemen and defensive backs, the squad entered the regular season with confidence. Dismayed only by a solitary Week 4 loss to the Ancona Dolphins, 20-28, the Panthers cruised through the rest of the regular season and entered the playoffs with a first round bye. The semifinal matchup was, of course, against the only team to beat the Panthers in regular season play, the Ancona Dolphins. This time around, the Panthers high-powered offense and suffocating defense submerged and drowned the Dolphins by a score of 34-16. The final game of the season, the IFL Super Bowl, would match up the Panthers and a team they had already beaten twice, the Milan Seamen. While the game was initially back-and-forth and competitive, like so many other times in 2013, the Panthers eventually ran away with it for a final score of 51-28 and a 4th consecutive IFL title.

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