Bronze medal recap: Japan 7, Austria 0

By Todd Bell

Ryosuke Nishizawa broke a scoreless tie with a one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give Japan a 7-0 win over Austria in the Bronze Medal game at the International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.

The win netted Japan its second consecutive bronze medal in IFAF Under-19 World Championship play, with its other coming in 2009 at Canton, Ohio.

Japan’s defense limited Austria to just 90 yards of total offense on the day. Linebacker Naoki Hayashi earned MVP honors for the Japanese with seven tackles in the shutout victory.

“This experience will help American football in Japan,” said Tema Japan head coach Takao Yamazaki. “Not only to develop players but also human beings who can learn different cultures. In the future, Japan will continue to improve and build a better team.”

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A rapidly-moving opening half saw the defenses dominate. The only serious scoring threat came late in the second quarter when Japan reached the Austria 19-yard line following a failed Austria punt attempt. Japan could not capitalize as kicker Nanami Ariwa’s 36-yard field goal attempt was wide right.

Austria reached Japan’s 26-yard line late in the first quarter following an interception by Thomas Meznik, but Austria came up short on fourth-and-six from the Japan 26 and turned the ball over on downs.

“We played together as a group,” Hayaski said “The defensive backs did a very good job. This was an accomplishment for the entire team.”

“We prepared well for their offense but they prepared for ours as well,” Austria head coach Horst Obermayer said through a translator. “Japan made some adjustments from what we’d seen so far and played a little differently defensively. We didn’t really have anywhere to go.”

Japan’s opening drive of the fourth quarter began in Austria territory at the 48. On first down Satoshi Sagino broke free on a 31-yard run down to the Austria 17 to set Japan up deep in Austria territory. Six plays later, quarterback Ryosuke Nishizawa plunged over the goal line from a yard out for a 7-0 Japan lead with 8:42 left in the game.

On Japan’s next series, Austria’s Thomas Meznik forced a fumble that was recovered by Thomas Oberdorfer near midfield with 6:51 left in the game. But Japan’s defense held at the 50 and Austria was forced to punt.

“Austria deserves great credit, especially on defense. They did a very good job stopping us,” Japanese head coach Yamazaki said. “The entire tournament, I think our defense did a really good job.”

Austria had one final chance with 1:09 to go but could not advance beyond midfield and turned the ball over on downs to end the game.

Austria defensive lineman Christoph Leitner earned MVP honors for Austria with six tackles and a sack.

The tournament marked Austria’s first appearance in an IFAF Under-19 World Championship after having won the 2011 Under-19 European Championship. Seeded No. 5 at the tournament’s outset, Austria finished fourth out of eight competitors spanning four continents.

“We played a good game defensively but they were able to get that touchdown late in the game,” Leitner said. “It was a great experience and I’m glad we had the chance to do this. I think we learned a lot.”

“I’m really happy to have been here and very excited about the entire experience,” Japan’s Hayaski said of the World Championship. “Being so close with other players and other teams in the dorms, I made a lot of friends and had a lot of conversations with people from other countries.”

(Photo: USA Football / @CIMAGES)