Wartburg Knights Defeat Ancona Dolphins as Football Program Tours Italy
NCAA Division III Wartburg Knights traveled student-athletes, staff and family members with American Football Worldwide to central Italy for eight days of touring that included stops in Rome, Vatican City, Siena, Florence, San Marino and a beach resort along the Adriatic Sea. A highlight of the tour was representing the USA and American football in an international game against the Ancona Dolphins from the Italian Football League, the highest level of American football in Italy.
After relaxing early day at the resort on Sunday, in the late afternoon Wartburg football took a short ride down the coast to Ancona to play the successful and respected American football program in Ancona. The host Dolphins played with tremendous spirit to start the game making the Knights offense work to find the end zone.
After Wartburg’s defense produced the first of numerous three-and-outs on a Troy Heick’s third down sack, after a short punt the Knights offense went to work in Dolphin territory. In quick order, Connor Schrader carried three times for 15, 15 and 1 to give the Knights the early 6-0 lead. After another 3 and out, Wartburg quarterback Matt Sacia opened a drive with a big 19-yard completion to Ben Strathman. However, inside their 10-yard line the Ancona defense rose to the occasion with a big fourth down stop.
The Dolphins, playing against the rugged Wartburg defense lead by their experienced defensive line, struggled to move the chains throughout the contest. Working to find consistency the Knights faced 4th and goal from the 13 when Riley Brockway demonstrated his excellent play-making ability by breaking tackles and leaving his cleats in the grasp of an opponent eventually finding the end zone off a screen. Minutes later a Mitch Roe’s tackle for a loss brought a change of possession and Parker Hammel produced a huge 24-yard rush then moments later scored on a 1-yard power run. Matt Beebe then added the extra point to give the Knights a 19-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Moments later after a Sacia to Jacob Leisinger pass put the ball inside the Dolphins 10, the Ancona defense once again rose to the occasion. However, getting another opportunity before the end of the half, Sacia lead the two-minute offense. After big first down receptions to Griffin Brennecke and Brockway, Sacia went to Brockway one more time in the final scrimmage play of the half for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Beebe added the extra point and at the half the Knights lead 26-0.
Starting with the football in the second half the Knights made a strong statement. Brockway continued his stellar play with a big kick-off return. After first downs via a Leisinger reception and a Schrader run, Brockway capped the drive with another 5-yard reception for the score.
At this point some real misfortunes accumulated for the host Dolphins. After playing turnover free football the first half, in the third quarter a bad punt snap on their and two drives later a fumble on a kick-off return gave Wartburg two very short fields that the Knights capitalized on. Hammel added another 4-yard touchdown run and Brennecke took a short pass then went 37-yards for the score. In between, the Knights defense got in on the scoring when Dillon Caulkins chased down a scrambling quarterback for a two-point safety. Besides facing the stout Wartburg defense the Dolphin offense, playing without their starting quarterback who injured his knee the week before, struggled moving the chains all afternoon.
Brendan Schott added the final score with a run from 6-yards out making the final score 53-0 Wartburg over the Ancona Dolphins.
After the game, both teams gathered outside the stadium for a fantastic social with an abundance of food, drink and eventually song. Players and fans from both organizations experienced a uniquely fun, special and memorable cross-cultural event.
Following the game, the next day the Wartburg Knights returned to Rome for visits to Vatican City, St. Peter’s, the Roman Coliseum and Forum. Afterward, they return home for summer activities. The Knights open their season at home on September 9 against Monmouth College. As European teams compete in the spring and summer, the Ancona Dolphins have ended their 2017 season and will resume off-season training in September.
Reflecting back, Wartburg Head Coach Rick Willis commented, “This was a great and a phenomenal tour for our student-athletes and staff. The tour and experience really exceeded our expectations.”
About American Football Worldwide
American Football Worldwide has emerged as a leader in providing international athletic and educational tours for college and high school select teams. AFW has served several NCAA Division III schools and currently organizes ‘spring break tours’ for high school senior select teams to compete with national U19 teams in Europe. Lead by Jim Barnes, an NCAA coach for 25 years with 16 as a head coach in Division III, AFW approaches these tour opportunities focused to serve the growth experience of the student-athlete and the coaches who seek to provide their student-athletes the most comprehensive education experiences possible. For further information contact AFW.