Game recap: Sweden 54, Panama 20

By Todd Bell

Oscar Nevermann scored an IFAF Under-19 World Championship record five touchdowns Friday night at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas, and finished with 184 all-purpose yards to lead Sweden to a 54-20 win over Panama.

Sweden earned seventh place with the victory and sends them home on a positive note as they earned their first win of the tournament.

“This was a really good way for things to end for the kids,” Sweden Head Coach Mats Hagsten. “I’m happy for them. We’ve got a 27-hour flight home, but they’ll be happy.”

Nevermann earned team MVP honors as he rushed for 50 yards and four scores, caught two passes for 29 yards and a touchdown, returned two punts for 67 yards and one kickoff for 38 yards. Defensively, Nevermann also forced a fumble on the opening kick of the second half.

“Our offense produced very well all day and I managed to get the ball a lot of different ways,” Nevermann said. “Our plan was to just win and see that our fans saw what they came to see. Our offensive line played aggressive and hard. That’s all you can ask.”

Click here for box score

Sweden got on the board on its opening drive, marching 48 yards in five plays and reaching the end zone on a 25-yard run by Carl Nielsen for a 7-0 lead.

Panama took an 8-7 lead late in the first quarter on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Rodrigo Hernandez to Anthony Evans and a two-point conversion rush by Manuel Gil.

Sweden answered on its next drive, moving 54 yards in seven plays to retake the lead, 14-8, on a 4-yard run by Nevermann with 9:34 left in the first half.

Nevermann then set Sweden up at the Panama 35 with a 27-yard punt return, and three plays later caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Christopher Guillen. Samuel Lehto’s two-point conversion rush failed, and the lead stood at 20-8 midway through the second quarter.

After a Panama three-and-out, Nevermann returned the next punt 54 yards to the Panama 1 then dove into the end zone on first down. The point-after was blocked by Gilberto Cano to keep the score at 26-8 with 4:30 left in the half.

Panama’s offense outgained Sweden in total yards, 336-269, but five turnovers ended drives and set up the Swedes with good field position.

“(Being behind,) we had to get out of our game plan, Panama head coach Raul Arosemena said. “We had planned to run the ball more but ended up throwing. Turnovers killed us, and we had to open things up.”

Panama quarterback  Rodrigo Henriquez took up that challenge, finishing 17-of-34 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns, earning team MVP.

With his team trailing by 18, Henriquez drove Panama 74 yards on nine plays, completing 4-of-6 passes for 62 yards and sneaking in from a yard out to cut the lead to 26-14 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.

Panama seemed to have something going when  Manuel Gil returned the second-half kickoff 64 yards to the Sweden 34, but the ball was stripped away by Nevermann and recovered by Erik Silijeholm at the Sweden 30.

“I lost contain and just wanted to make up for it,” Nevermann said.

Kevin Dillman entered the game at quarterback for Sweden to start the second half and directed a 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown run by Carl Nielsen for a 33-14 lead.

Sweden forced a Panama fumble on its next series, and it was recovered at the Panama 20 by Tobias Asp. Nevermann rumbled 20 yards for his fourth touchdown of the day on the next play to extend the lead to 40-14.

Following another short Panama punt, Sweden again began a drive in Panama territory, this time at the 43. Sweden used 4:38 to move those 43 yards to the end zone. The final three coming on 3-yard run by Dillman to give Sweden a 47-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Panama cut the lead to 47-20 on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Henriquez to Roberto Porteus with 6:53 left in the game.

Nevermann scored his final touchdown of the day on a 6-yard run with 3:34 left in the game. The score was set up by an interception by linebacker Marcus Grip.

Panama lost all three of its game, but Henriquez said he and his teammates enjoyed the opportunity to play in the United States and experience the best in international competition.

“This is our last game, and I wanted to enjoy it,” Henriquez said. “We love football. We have a lot of heart to the end. I’m proud of our guys.

“It is a privilege to be here. Everything was tremendous – from the organization to the teams to the coaches. It is the best experience I’ve had in my life.”

(Photo: USA Football / @CIMAGES)