Saturday came and went with a flurry of intensity, excitement, and emotion. This was it, Derby Milano part 3, as if 2 regular season Derby’s were not enough. The stakes were raised, winner goes to the Super Bowl for the ultimate prize. This was it, this was the show, this was the game everyone in Navy and White have been waiting for, a chance at redemption.

The first Derby say the Seamen outplayed at home in a loss to the tune of 45-19. The return match was different and was a shoot out of the offense with both defenses trying to get a stop, the game came down to a final drive with a minute left and the boys in Blue turned the ball over to loose 34-33.

This was it, the Seamen coming off a great road win in Rome blanking the Marines.

The Rhino’s undefeated on the season, the team to beat. The match was set, game day was here.

Unfortunately for the Seamen they came away on the losing side of the match again, losing by 1 point. The game is on YouTube:

It was a back and forth game that featured everything from amazing catches, kick off returns for a TD, turnovers, hard hits, and spectacular plays in the running game. I could give you a play by play, but if you weren’t there, you should have been.

For me what was more impressive, was the way the team prepared leading up to the game, the way they handled themselves through the peaks and valleys, always responding, always playing with heart. At the helm of the offensive side was Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Dally, 2x time Super Bowl QB for the Seamen and former QB of the Rhino’s. Many people including myself during pre-game asked JD, does it feel weird preparing for this game as a coach? And he answered with the best response ever, “I am exactly where I am supposed to be.” To hear this from the signal caller with his background, made me look at my situation, I had struggled all year wanting to be a player, and trying to help as a coach. His preparation, his answer, his demeanor was all confidence and swag and I admired that in him as a coach, and knew he was right, he was the right signal caller for this situation.

Later after thinking back to that moment, I realized that I too am exactly where I need to be, in my life, living in Italy, finishing school, working, and coaching a game that I love to a great group of guys that I am proud to call my players, teammates, and friends.

I have come to admire our QB Garret Saffron, he is a young dynamic QB who has a lot to learn, and a long career ahead of him. What he has are the intangibles, he will always give you 100% no matter what, most of the year he played banged up and hurt, but come game day you would see him breaking out of the pocket running across the field to pick up a first down while lowering his shoulder into any opposing jersey. As a leader he continued to grow, always being positive and upbeat with his teammates, always reassuring “I got this”.

The other American David Guthrie, is a true competitor, in everything he does. He also grew into a vocal defensive leader to go along with his hard hitting demeanor. His style of play was a spark the defense needed, the same defense that wasn’t scored on going into Saturday in the last 3 games.

I had the pleasure to work a lot with the Offensive Linemen. Anyone who knows the game knows that the OL is an unselfish bunch. They hit every play, block their asses off to let the offense ball, and they do it silently, and usually with multiple ice bags on their body after the game. This OL has been up and down throughout the season but always blocked hard, got better, and did everything they could to protect their guys. Their passion and love of football is second to none and I am proud to coach them and pad up with them throughout the season.

This team has been amazing to be a part of. The Captains of this team know how to inspire and keep people accountable. The Coaching Staff was fun to be a part of, they may have had their disputes but they always knew how to come together and make the boys better. They always were trying to put people in position to win.

There are many leaders on this team and I could talk about every player individually as everyone on this team has had an impact on me. But one moment that really exemplifies what it means to lay it all on the line comes from probably the most vocal leader on the team in Andrea Zini. Number 5 was always the guy to give a pre-game speech that even not knowing what in the world he was saying, just watching him gave you chills. Unfortunately for him he got injured in Rome and was unable to be on the field with his guys. Before the game that bothered him and he was emotional, he wanted to badly to be on the field, that emotion is a true sign of  a leader. I told him “a true leader leads all the time, even when injured, your team needs you today. You have to play a different role today, but it is an important one.” All afternoon with a thigh injury that made it tough to walk, he was up and down those sidelines talking to everyone, keeping people positive, helping out the defense in their reads.

It is crazy to see the game from up in the box, but coaching up there, I felt that, that is where I belong, I loved seeing things from that vantage point, relaying in crucial information for the OC and DC to make the right calls to try and win the game.

Being a part of this team has been a hell of a ride (so far), and being around this team has really been a huge learning experience. Sport has overcome language barriers and provided a common bond that creates friendships, allowing us to learn from each other, we became a family.

The legacy of the 2016 Seamen should not be anything but positive. A team that learned from each game, always growing, always moving forward. A team willing to put it all on the line each and every week.

We may have fell short of another run at the Super Bowl, but this is same team that is going to Poland next month to play in the Final Four. The same team that will represent Italy for the first time in 10 years. A team that is HUNGRY for a championship. Now its time to turn our focus on what’s next, the drive for the European Championship. Be on the lookout for a team hungry to prove itself once again. I am looking forward to seeing this team make some noise in the European Championship, and hopefully come home with a trophy!!!

I am proud of what this team accomplished, proud to see how this team grew, and proud to see that no matter what last Saturday, they battled, every drive, every series, every play. They responded and they went down swinging. This team has HEART. And they played the way football is mean to be played, with Passion and Pride.
Forza Seamen!
* All photo credit: Dario Fumagalli – The Milano Seamen’s awesome team photographer *