|Defensive backs (from left) Corey Brown, Andrew Imperatore, Nicholas Silvester, and Alex Miller at Roma Stadio Flaminio prior to the start of the game.
Photo by James Kravic
There's no doubt the players on the Western New England football team will never forget their historic 2011 season.
Many team members also will include an overseas trip to Italy from March 17-26, as another memorable highlight.
The Golden Bears had an exciting journey with stops in such historic sites as Milan, San Marino, the Tuscany Region, Florence, The Vatican, and Rome.
There were many highlights capped by a 57-0 exhibition victory over the Italian National Blue Team on March 25 in Rome. There are three football leagues in Italy and the top players (who ranked in age from 20-33) represented their national squad.
"The term 'Blue' is their nickname and doesn't mean there is an alternative "Green, White or Red Team,"said Western New England coach Keith Emery. "This is their national team that competes in the World Championship."
|Golden Bears on the move against the Italian National Team.|
The exhibition game was one of many adventures that brought an already close-knit team even closer. Everyone brought back home experiences and memories that won't soon be forgotten.
"I think the biggest thing was the camaraderie gained by everyone. I saw different players hanging out and having dinner with different players every day. They bonded really well. On the field, it was great to see the next generation of Golden Bears step up. We had a lot of starters graduate and it was nice to see some of the young guys play well," said Emery.
During their time in Italy, team members had a chance to get a first-hand education about the Italian culture.
"The guys really liked San Marino," Emery stated. "It was a quiet medieval republic on the top of a mountain. It was beautiful and very relaxing. The other big highlight was the Coliseum in Rome. They were eager to see it and not disappointed."
The Golden Bears had eight practice sessions on campus before leaving on their trip.
"We had one practice while we were in Italy, a clinic that turned into a practice, and a walk-through in a hotel parking lot. They were not the crispest practices ever, but the walk-through went surprisingly well," noted Emery.
Italy is well-known for a success as a soccer power, but many people probably don't know that American football has been played in Italy since the 1970's.
Western New England dominated the game against their Italian counterparts as Emery had a chance to get all his players on the field.
"We had a couple of problems in the kicking game early since we have some new kickers other than Nick Fox-Edele, but they found their groove as the game progressed. Tight end Dan Lanoir played well catching two touchdowns and was named the Offensive Player-of-the-Game. Senior safety Andrew Imperatore had an interception return for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty, but he played well and was selected the Defensive Player-of-the Game. Quarterback John Krafick showed that he has full command of the offense and it will be exciting to watch his development next season," reported Emery.
Western New England had little time to rest before hitting the weight room and starting spring drills on March 31.
According to Emery, spring practice will feature a mix of football and conditioning.
"Our new strength coach Paul Park will conduct part of the practice and another portion will be football oriented," explained Emery. "We have a busy spring with four different community service projects that include Relay for Life and a Blood Drive. National Rebuilding Day is right around the corner as well. We've got a tight team that will help in the fall."
Western New England opens its 2012 season on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Norwich.