Friday, November 10, 2017

EuroBall Adventure XII . . . ITALIA HERE WE COME!

The songs of the Sirens of EuroBall were just too strong for us this time . . .

And they were singing in Italian!

It all started innocently enough back in mid-September when I received an inquiry via, the clearing house for players, coaches and European teams trying to find each other.

Dario was making the inquiry

He has been a player for, and now coaches the Defensive Backs for a Division II team in the northwest part of Italy, the Varese Skorpions.

He was persuasive.

Yes, Skorpions with a "k" not a "c."

Now, where exactly is Varese?

It is up near Milan but it is
not shown on this map

This map hanging on a wall
at a South Pasadena pizzeria
did indeed have Varese!

There it is in the upper left corner near the Swiss border.

On this map it appears to be close to Lake Maggiore. Actually it is a little farther east and sits equidistant, about ten miles, from both Lake Maggiore and Lake Como.

GREAT area!

The City of Varese's Crest

The City of Varese has about 80,000 inhabitants, sits about 1,250 feet above sea level and shares about the same latitude with Portland, Oregon.

The city's Patron Saint is San Vittore whose feast day is May 8th.

Can you say PARTY?

So, what about the team then?

The 2018 season will be the
35th campaign of Skorpion football

OK, that makes them more than well established and meets one of my newer EuroBall rules, NEVER SIGN WITH A TEAM THAT IS LESS THAN FIVE YEARS OLD.

I learned this the hard way a few years ago when I signed with a second year team in Poland that folded about three weeks before I was scheduled to fly overseas to join them.

This rule ensures that a club has the experience, leadership and finances necessary to keep the club moving in a positive direction in my estimation.

Good looking Senior team last season

The Skorpions have about 150 players competing in four Italian flag football divisions and three fully padded, full contact teams.

The full contact teams are for Under 16, Under 19 and Senior players.

As mentioned earlier, the Skorpions
play in Italy's Division II

In 2017, there were 92 clubs playing American football in Italy.

Of these 92 clubs, 24 competed in Division II in the past campaign.

In 2017, Italy's best 11 clubs competed in Division I otherwise known as the Italian Football League.

The other 57 clubs played in Italy's Third Division.

So I was interested but would Laurie want to return to Italy for another season of American football?

When I asked her, her answer was a resounding . . .

I don't think that I have ever seen her as excited about a EuroBall assignment as she was for this one in Varese.

Enter . . .

. . . Enzo Petrillo
to close the deal

On our recent vacation to Italy to visit Mombaruzzo and Rome, Enzo and I had phone conversations and tried to meet face-to-face but the logistics just did not work out.

Undaunted, he kept after me.

I resisted but when he mentioned that Varese actually had several ristoranti that actually served Italian food, cannoli, gelato, coffee and local wines, what could I do?

Where do I sign up?

And just like that we were Varese Skorpions!

To quickly chronicle our soon to be 12 EuroBall experiences . . .

2008 Defensive Coordinator Catania Elephants, Italy

2009 Head Coach Catania Elephants, Italy

2010 Head Coach Hässleholm Hurricanes, Sweden

2012 Head Coach Thun Tigers, Switzerland

2012-13 Head Coach Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons, France

2015 Head Coach Murcia Cobras, Spain

2016 Fundamentals Coach, Wäsby Warriors, Sweden

2016 Fundamentals Coach, Osos Rivas, Spain

2017 Fundamentals Coach, Wäsby Warriors, Sweden

2017 Assistant Coach, Europe Warriors Senior Team that played in Mexico City in August vs. the UNAM Pumas

2017 Assistant Coach, Europe Warriors U19 Team that will play in Mexico City in December vs. the ONEFA U19 All-Stars

2018 Head Coach, Varese Skorpions, Italy

This thing called Retirement has indeed been fun!

So yesterday at the Atahotel in Varese, the Skorpions held our team's formal presentation of the 2018 to the club members and the media.

I was introduced to the Skorpions via a Skype conversation.  

The Skorpions Coaching Staff
and Board of Directors

Lots of players and their families
in attendance at the presentation

I'm loving the pink suspenders by the way!

So, let's dig into the 2017 Skorpions season just a bit.

One Skorpion executing a picture
perfect form tackle

But, on the other hand, another Skorpion got trucked by this Busto Arsizio Blue Storms' ball carrier.

We will work on tackling every day to be sure.

GREAT logo!


Skorpion QB Giacomo Micheli

We will have no import players on the Skorpions.

While our 2018 schedule has yet to be released, we can take a look back to our Skorpions' 2017 results.

As near as I can tell, our club played in a four team league where we played each team twice, home-and-home, for a total of six games.

Additionally, each team played two more regular season games against other nearby Division II clubs not in our league. A bit of a problem with these two games was that our four league clubs all played different teams in these two contests creating a bit of competitive imbalance in the results and final league standings as we will see.

In 2017, the Skorpions were 3-5 in the regular season and 3-6 overall. The Skorpions tied for second place in the league with our cross-town rivals, the Varese Gorillas.

We split the two regular season games with the Gorillas but advanced to the playoffs based on aggregate score of the two contests, Skorpions 33 - Gorillas 13.

The Busto Arsizio Blue Storms
7-1 regular season, 8-2 overall

The Blue Storm easily won our league and then a Wild Card playoff game against the Bologna Braves 20-19 before losing in the quarterfinals 21-14 to the Reggio Emilia Hogs.

Our two 2017 game results were:
March 19th at home
Blue Storm 19 - Skorpions 6
May 28th at Busto Arsizio
Blue Storm 36 - Skorpions 0

RB Giampiero Ruffato
vs. the Rivoli Blackbills

The Cagliari Crusaders
0-8 regular season, 0-8 overall

The Crusaders home base is on the island of Sardinia of which Cagliari is the capital city.

Our two 2017 game results were:
March 12th at home
Skorpions 21 - Crusaders 19
May 21st at Cagliari
Skorpions 27 - Crusaders 6

LB Simone Tammaro
leading the charge!

The Varese Gorillas
3-5 regular season, 3-5 overall

The Gorillas are also from Varese.

The always entertaining Mike Leach, Washington State's Head Coach, recently said that more American football teams should have Gorillas as a nickname. 

Our two 2017 game results were:
April 30th at the Gorillas home field
Gorillas 7 - Skorpions 6
May 15th at home
Skorpions 27 - Crusaders 6


The Rivoli Blackbills
8-0 regular season, 11-0 overall
Italian Division II National Champions

This was the first of our two non-league games and led to my previous unbalanced schedule comment.

The result of our only game was
April 2nd at home
Blackbills 45 - Skorpions 6

LB Ivan Raso still trying to
bring down this Blackbills player

The Rivoli Chiefs
4-4 regular season, 4-4 overall

This was the second of our two non-league games.

The result of our only game was
April 9th at Ravenna
Chiefs 29 - Skorpions 0

Weather can be an issue this far north

The Roma Nord Barbari
7-1 regular season, 8-2 overall

This was a Division II Wild Card game against an outstanding club from the Eternal City.

Why were they playing in a Wild Card game at 7-1?

The result of our Wild Card game was
June 11th at Rome
Barbari 63 - Skorpions 6

So, we will be building from the base of a 3-6, 2017 season that was good for a second place tie in league and a spot in the playoffs.

We will work hard to improve our program and record in 2018.

Among others, #11 Tomas Pedotti
and #70 Luca Gabriele Bozzo
swarming to a Chiefs' ballcarrier

An unidentified #8 and
#9 Stefano Granelli
sack a Chiefs' QB!


Another good form tackle
against the Crusaders by
#22 Andrea Mora

#1 Thomas Alberici and
#99 Federico Bristoletti
Pressuring the Crusaders' QB

The Skorpions are going to be
a fun group to coach

It's GREAT to be a Skorpion!

And the Adventure continues . . .

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

EuroBall Adventure XI

We're baaack . . .

I can not begin to say enough about the job that Jesús Sánchez and Bart Iaccarino did last Spring and Summer in organizing our first ever Europe Warriors All-Star team.

Our Warriors played in August in Mexico City's Olympic Stadium in front of an estimated crowd of 27,000 fans against the UNAM Pumas to celebrate their 90th year of playing American football at the Mexican collegiate level.

 Poster from our August game

The First Europe Warriors Club
lost to the UNAM Pumas 35-32

Everything associated with that game, from start to finish, was absolutely FIRST CLASS!

So, let's do it AGAIN!

Thus, it was with great joy that I accepted Jesús' and Bart's generous offer to come join them again for a second Europe Warriors all-star game in Mexico, this time during the first week of December.

Our game last August featured a European All-Star team made up of adult athletes who had played in European leagues in the recent past.

This time we will be coaching a group of youngsters from Europe who are all under 19 years of age against a similar aged All-Star team made up of players from the 22 universities that make up the ONEFA (Organización Nacional Estudiantil de Fútbol Americano) Mexican college league. Their players will be chosen from the league's Liga Intermedia made up of U19 athletes.

The game will take place on December 9th at the stadium of the Chapingo Autonomous Universidad Toros Salvages (Wild Bulls) in the city of Texcoco about 20 miles northeast of Mexico City.

The advanced weather report for the game in Texcoco calls for ". . . a BEAUTIFUL day for American football!" 

I'm looking forward to yet another amazing EuroBall experience!

There may be another EuroBall announcement coming in the next day or two, stay tuned . . .


Halloween Week 2017

We were in for a busy week to say the least. Tuesday was Halloween which is a yearly magical night with our grandkids.


 We started the week
babysitting Mary who was
surrounded with spooky
Halloween things courtesy of
Gigi's Attic

 Of course, I was in the
Halloween spirit as well

Cowboy Jacob

He was beyond excited to go over to the Murphy's for their annual unveiling of Spooky Town.

It was spooky indeed!


A Star Wars Loving Family

Jacob and Mary
Trick or Treating with friends
Maverick and Luke

I had fun with Mary

Pouring over the Halloween loot

 Mary and I entering
Phase II of our sugar overdose


I had accepted an invitation
to speak to the Ventura Rotary Club

The invitation came from our long-time friend and Rotarian Sherry Scott.

How could I say no?

The Topic?

It was a natural, about a 30 minute discussion on "Life in EuroBall" complete with a Power Point presentation.

I said the topic was a natural because it was Sherry's husband Rick who finally talked me into going to Europe to coach American football one night in 2004 on our way to coaching a playoff game at Agoura H.S.

After the talk to the Rotarians
I swung by Moorpark H.S.

I needed to do a little more research for my color commentating job on Friday night's Game-of-the-Week podcast.


On to Calabasas H.S. for more
Game-of-the-Week research

 Lots of recent success for the Coyotes

In the evening, it was time for a Date Night with Laurie in Santa Barbara.

Dinner by the beach with . . .

 . . . My Honey . . .

 . . . Just before crossing the street
to Santa Barbara City College's
La Playa Stadium

Our good friend Ryan Bolland's Buena H.S. Bulldogs (3-6) were playing against the Santa Barbara H.S. Dons (5-4) in a key regular season ending contest that had playoff indications.

If Buena won tonight, it would make for a three way tie for second place in the Channel League with Ventura H.S. (5-5). All three schools would be 2-2 in league play and would have beaten each other in head on competition.

Thus if Buena won, by Channel League rules, the league's Principals would have to vote to decide which club got the Channel League's second and final guaranteed spot in the C.I.F. playoffs.

 How many Cheerleaders does
Santa Barbara H.S. have?

Buena only had seven.

With John Zant

At halftime we hooked up with one of my former St. Francis H.S. teammates from our 1963 C.I.F. AAA Championship team.

John was our explosive Wingback on that made "Wingback Counter Trap at 9" a nightmare for our opponents!

He lives in Santa Barbara with wife Kathleen and had a long and distinguished career as a sportswriter for the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Great guy!

 Post Game with Ryan Bolland

I coached Ryan at Buena H.S. back in 2002 and 2003.

We also coached together with Sweden's Hässleholm Hurricanes in 2010 and with the Rio Mesa H.S. Spartans in 2011 and 2012.

The Final Score was Buena 33 - Santa Barbara 19.

Friday morning the Channel League principals voted Buena is in as the league's number two team.

The Bulldogs (4-6) will open the 2017 C.I.F. Division XIII playoffs on the road against Tri-Valley League Champion Grace Brethren (8-2) this coming Friday.

By the way, Ventura made the playoffs but not Santa Barbara.


 McDonald's after school and
before a sleepover

It has become a Friday Tradition.

This kid is a hoot but I had
to leave him to go to work

 The Camino League Championship
was at stake tonight

The Calabasas H.S. Coyotes (8-1) were the defending  Camino League Champions.

The Moorpark H.S. Musketeers (8-1) were a big, physical team that I felt was the best team that we had seen during our broadcasts this season.

 The 1945-46 Musketeer Varsity 11

I loved seeing this photo proudly displayed in their concessions area in the nearby gym.


I was disappointed by the visiting crowd that Calabasas mustered for such a big game.

Calabasas dominated the game winning 33-21.

It wasn't that close.

 Meanwhile, Mike took Jacob
to the Thousand Oaks Lancers
at Newbury Park Panthers game

While Jacob worked on his tackling skills, the Panthers cruised to an easy 42-17 victory in the Conejo Valley Classic.

After the game, Mike dropped Jacob off at our house to continue the sleepover.


Jacob was still in a
Halloween Mood Saturday morning

Mike, Vanessa and Mary joined us for a day of college football  TV watching mania.

Only one game mattered really . . .




That was fun to watch!

YOUR Los Angeles Rams reached the NFL season's mid-point at 6-2 and alone in first place in the NFC West Division!

After the Rams victory,
we went to the movies

It was different, enjoyable and informative, worthy of TWO THUMBS UP!

Reading Is FUNdamental!

I bought it at
Shakespeare and Co.
in Paris on our recent trip

In my opinion, this Hemingway fellow has a chance to become a decent enough writer someday if he works at it and respects his calling.

Just saying . . .