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Italy and Spain Big Winners on Opening Day of IFAF U19 European Championships

Both Team Italy and Team Spain impressed in their opening day performances as the 2023 IFAF U19 European Championships got underway.

Italy cruised to a 34-0 victory over Great Britain at the Velodromo Vigorelli in Milan on Saturday evening as the visitors struggled to contain a pounding running game and a swarming Italian defense that deservedly recorded a shutout.

Italy will now play for fifth place in the IFAF European Championships in September against Germany.

In the day’s earlier game, hosts Spain eased to a 48-6 win over Belgium, setting the tone on the game’s first play with a kickoff return for a touchdown and were ahead 34-6 by halftime. Coach Onorio Arias’s squad now await the Czech Republic who won their ninth place clash against Switzerland.

In Milan, Italy running back Matteo Bellesi of Guelfi Firenze was named the game MVP having pounded out most of the yards gained on the ground and scored a second half touchdown. Quarterback Dario Di Girolamo twice rushed the end zone himself and passed for two further scores as Italy dominated.

The Italian signal caller was initially intercepted by Vinnie Maxfield on his second possession but a sack from Tommaso Zucchini and the hosts’ fierce pass rush soon forced GB to turn the ball over on downs.

Bellesi reeled off two large gains on the ground and produced a fine second effort to take the ball down to the one-yard line. Now looking more composed under center, Di Girolamo scored the game’s first touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

The British defense held firm early in the second quarter, halting workhorse Bellesi on a fourth down run to end a drive that saw the Italians march into the red zone despite having conceded 30 yards in penalties.

But there was no stopping Italy on their next drive. Having started at midfield, a Bellesi rush with a 15-yard penalty tagged on moved the ball downfield and even after a third down pass had been broken up, a Di Girolamo sneak moved the chains. The Rhinos Milano quarterback found tight end Davide Volpi in the corner of the end zone on a 17-yard pump fake pass and Italy led 12-0.

Free safety Luca Montaresi got the ball back immediately, intercepting Finley Guyan’s pass on the first play of Great Britain’s sixth possession. Bellesi worked the ball downfield on the ground and Di Girolamo went in for his second short yardage touchdown from two yards out for an 18-0 halftime lead. If there was a negative for Italy during the first half, it was a poor hold on their first extra point attempt that necessitated two-point tries, which both failed.

Italy scored 16 third quarter points while Great Britain lost starting quarterback Finley Guyan to injury. Francesco Cacciola added his presence to the rushing attack, but it was Bellesi who bulldozed his way into the end zone from 11 yards out and kicked the extra point for a now unassailable 25-0 lead.

New GB quarterback Joseph McGovern was called for intentional grounding while in the grasp in the end zone to concede a safety. Montaresi claimed a second interception and that led to Bellesi pounding out yet more yards on the ground to tee up a 20-yard lofted pass from Di Girolamo to Giovanni Zani deep in the end zone for the final score.

Source : AFI