Parma Panthers

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Panthers
Established 1981
Based in Parma
Home stadium Stadio XXV Aprile
Head coach Andrew Papoccia
General manager Ivano Tira
League Italian Football League
League titles 4 (2010/11/12/13)
Current uniform
Helmet
Left arm Body Right arm
Trousers
Socks
Home
Helmet
Left arm Body Right arm
Trousers
Socks
Away

The Parma Panthers are an American football team based in Parma, Italy that competes in the Italian Football League 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 IFL championship by beating respectively Catania Elephants, Bologna Warriors, Catania Elephants and Milano Seamen.[1]

Team History[edit]

2004 - After their inaugural year in Serie B, the Panthers win the Silver League title in just their second season. On July 3, in the presence of the beautiful stadium Ridolfi of Florence, the Panthers went against the Elephants of Catania. The season started unsteady due to delays in preparation, but thanks to the arrival of coach Bill Piner, assisted by coach Joe Knoll, the team would go on a six-game winning streak. All of their hard work would earn the Panthers a victory in the final. For his excellent performance, Renato Costi was voted as the best QB in the league, and his brother Dario was voted best receiver and KOR. Mattia Marino leader on special teams and defense was also recognized for his play along with Luca Scurria, Nicola Palmia, Gian Luca Ferrari, Rasheed Shittu and Captain Alberto Lanzoni. All of these players were voted among the best in their individual positions. The hero of the title game was Luca Marchesi.

2005 - Home at last! 2005 marks the rebirth of the Panthers. After 15 years, the Panthers are back in the top flight (Golden League or Serie A), and it is especially nice to be returning after 12 years to the historic Stadium "Cervi" now Lanfranchi, the lair of the Panthers. LB Onyeka Ossai and the phenomenal RB/SS Andrew Papoccia (reappointed for the 2006 season, ed.), are the two foreigners in the starting lineup. The season, however, is marked by injuries to the Americans, which forces the Panthers to field a team of just Italians. In spite of this, the Panthers are able to stay competitive in league play, and came up a touchdown short in their final game to miss the playoffs. With a record of 2-6 (Victories against the Hogs), the season ends with promise for league year to come. Players worth noting for their excellent play are Lanzoni, Scurria and Rasheed Shittu for the defense and Menozzi, Gennari, Antonetti and G. Ferrari on offense.

2006 - The 2006 season starts with a variation to the rule concerning American players. Any team is allowed up to five American players on their active roster and up to three American players on the field at any given time. After analyzing the athletes available the team and the Governing Body looked at the 2006 season as one aimed at survival. Andrew Papoccia had the task of interviewing and selecting staff from Member States, and the team began to work to provide what was necessary to allow the athletes to train and play in the best possible conditions. As for the situation of the coaching staff, Andrew selected Borchini and Tedeschi as offensive and defensive coordinators. Finding good knowledgeable coaches has been a problem in Parma and for the other teams spread throughout Italy. Parma exempts Coach Blackwelder. Something coaches of the NFLI are not used to is when a large number of experienced players undermine a coaches system, managed by coach with no assistants, in a sport played by non-professionals. The Panthers welcome their four new and one returning Americans to Parma. Quarterback Mike Souza, Safety Tyler Larick, Andrew Papoccia from Illinois State University, and Tight End Luke Seely from Southwestern College, are joined shortly after by WR/CB Craig McIntyre from Eastern Washington College. With Andrew Papoccia returning to the United States for family commitments on a few occasions, the Panthers hired Running Back Eddie Pricolo from Sacred Heart University. The complete package of Americans would be referred to as the "Fab Six". In June, to try to reach the playoffs, Parma brings back Coach Piner, who substantially contributes to the success achieved by the team. After beating the Giants at home, with the support of more than 50 Panthers from past team, the Panthers open the doors of the Super Bowl for the first time in team history. In Scandiano, province of Reggio Emilia, the Panthers saw their incredible journey fall short at the hands of the Lions, who defeat the Panthers 24 to12 on their way to their 10th national title.

2007 - Starting the season as last year’s runners up, the Panthers had to deal with some key losses before the season even started. Both of the Costi brothers hang up their cleats and are soon followed by Zambelloni and Shittu, while Andrew Papoccia is sworn in as the new Head Coach. The team however, is strengthened by the arrival of Maschi, Polenghi, Ummarino and Menozzi on offense, and Papasodero on defense. League rules only permit two American players on the field at the same time and the team is surprised by the return of Souza and McIntyre. The 2007 season starts off with a bang. First the Panthers got a mercy rule win at Napoli and follow it up with a win against the Dolphins. Parma then goes on to lose in the last minute against the Giants and their game against the Warriors is one for playoff position. The game is won in the second overtime and it's off to Rome with first place in the standings locked up. The Marines are a solid team, and the season favorites are able to defeat the Panthers. An injury to McIntyre forces Papoccia to play against the Rhinos, where the Italian-American ace excelled in rushing, receiving and returning kicks. A Panther's landslide victory is a historic accomplishment and means Parma is third place going into the playoffs. The playoffs would be against the winner of A2, but the Hogs were full of injuries and had to deal with several players leaving the team. They forfeit the game and the Panthers are automatically in the semifinals against the Marines. This time Souza and his fellow Panthers do not repeat their errors from their previous game against the Marines. Parma's victory brings the team back to the Super Bowl. Gavesi is signed before the game, a young rookie who is not only a talented receiver, but is a fool proof field goal kicker, which makes all the difference at this point of the season. The final in Scandiano is a repeat of the previous year: Panthers vs Lions. The final is a game of beauty and cannot be determined within regulation. It would take until the second overtime for the pluricampioni of Bergamo to win with a score of 55 to 49. The Panthers held the lead almost the entire game and had nothing to feel down about by the time of the final whistle. Writer John Grisham was in the stands, author the book "Playing for Pizza", which is based on the Parma Panthers. Aristide De Pascalis and Marco Tunnera are the two MVP’s of the season and give the team hope for a promising future. The 2007 season marks the arrival of the Parma Panthers in the IFL, and possibly even on the European scene.

2008 - After two exceptional seasons, the Panthers are forced to replace the stellar duo of Souza-McIntyre. To do so, the Panthers fish from Harvard QB Danny Brown (later replaced by Thomas Zetts due to injury), WR Corey Mazza and RB/LB Ryan Tully. The Panther’s season debut is against the Lions, the defending champions of Italy. The presence of John Grisham, brings excitement when he visits the Panthers, which brings a weekend of national notoriety since, Grisham is both an author and has links to television. After the first 3 games, the Panthers find themselves with a record of 1-2. With 7 consecutive victories, the Panthers fail to close in on the leaders and end the season in third place entering the play-offs. The semi-final sees the black-silver in a rematch against the Lions, and once again the ending is bitter. With the Panthers only a few minutes from victory, they see their chances at the final fade away. 2008 is also the first time the Panthers participate in a European competition, unleashing a series of performances that make the case for them to punch their ticket into the final of the EFAF Cup. In the beautiful setting of Berlin, the Panthers lose to host Adler but are proud to have reached this historic milestone. Lastly, the season ends with a farewell to the historic Lanfranchi stadium, with the Panthers moving to the new XXV Aprile Stadium.

2009 - The American trio for this season is made up of Ryan Tully, the return of McIntyre and the arrival of QB Joe Craddock from Middle Tennessee. The team also sees the debut of young Michele Canali (DE), Alessandro Canali (DB) (whose season unfortunately ends prematurely due to injury on the first day), Nicola Francani (CB) and Matteo Grigolo (WR). The seasons starts with the Panthers imposing its will on the Hogs and the Lions (with black-silver becoming authors of a sensational comeback, recovering from 7-26 to win 30-26). After losing to the Marines, the Panthers have back-to-back victories over the Doves and Dolphins. The Panthers go on Easter Saturday to Bolzano, to face the league leading Giants. Incredibly, with less than two minutes left the game is tied with a score of 28-28. With time winding down, Parma scores the go ahead touchdown to go up 35-28. Bolzano does not give up, and with 14 seconds left the Giants manage to score a TD to bring them within one point. The Giants do not attempt the extra point to tie, but opt to go for the 2-point conversion, which will be repeated twice because of penalties. At the end, the Giants successfully convert the 2-points conversion, putting them ahead of Parma 36-35. Parma performs the miracle however, and makes a field goal at the end of regulation and establishes themselves as the owners of the top spot. Many injuries were suffered however, and would lead the Panthers to be defeated against the Rhinos and the Elephants. With a final win against the Warriors, the Panthers were headed to a play-off game against the Marines. They would next play Ostia in the semifinal, where the two teams would fight for every point. A couple of turnovers would see the Panthers fall to Ostia by a score of 42-40. In European play, the Panthers cannot overcome the group stage, finishing with a victory and a defeat. The season also sees the appendix of the European championship in group B, in which the Italian team took fourth place. Among the 40 player squad, three players from the black-silver would stand out: Tommaso Antonetti (OT, national team captain), Michele Canali (DE) and Tommaso Monardi (QB, author of a thrilling performance in the final for the third-fourth place).

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.

Football in Italy[edit]

In 2008 IFL American football teams in Italy are only allowed to have three Americans on their team, which usually are the quarterback, the running back, and a wide receiver, in 2012 the number of Americans Players was decreased to 2. The Panthers are one of the only teams in IFL to feature an Italian starting QB.

In popular culture[edit]

Playing for Pizza is a novel by John Grisham about a quarterback who signs for Parma after being blamed for the defeat of the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Championship final.

References[edit]

External links[edit]