Team Canada defeated the U.S. Under-19 National Team, 23-17, on Saturday in the Gold Medal game of the 2012 International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Canada, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, jumped out to a 10-0 lead that it never relinquished and went on to stun top-seeded Team USA.
“Both teams played hard,” Team USA head coach Steve Specht of Cincinnati St. Xavier H.S. said. “There was ebb and flow. They just made one more play than we did. Give Canada credit. They played a heck of a game.”
Team Canada’s Alexandre Huard returned a punt 59 yards for a score and Louis-Philippe Simoneau kicked a 21-yard field goal to give Canada its early lead.
Simoneau opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The score was set up by an interception by defensive back Kevin McGee to give Team Canada the ball at the U.S. 40-yard line. The big play on the drive was a 22-yard pass from Will Finch to Doug Corby down to the Americans’ seven-yard line.
The interception was the first turnover by the United States in six games of IFAF Under-19 Championship competition, including the team’s three 2009 world championship games in Canton, Ohio. Canada’s early 3-0 lead also marked the first time that the United States trailed in Under-19 World Championship tournament play.
“I’m happy for the team,” said Canada’s McGee, who earned the team’s Gold Medal game MVP honors with five tackles and a pair of interceptions. “It’s an honor to be named MVP but this was a team victory. We worked really hard for two weeks. We’re really happy right now.
“This week has been the best experience of my life. I met some new people, I worked really hard and I think I’m a better football player after this.”
Canada’s first touchdown came when Huard fielded a Cameron Van Winkle punt and returned it 59 yards for a score with 8:24 left in the half.
Huard did not fare as well on the next U.S. punt, fumbling a fair catch at the Canada 14. The ball caromed back to the Canadians’ 35-yard line before safety Darius Mosely fell on it for Team USA.
Following a Canada pass interference penalty on first down that moved the ball to the Canada 20, U.S. quarterback Brayden Scott found DeMarcus Ayers for 15 yards down to the 5-yard line. Scott hit Ayers again three plays later for a touchdown to cut the Canada lead to 10-7 with 4:39 left in the half. For the tournament, Scott led all passers in yards (412) and touchdowns (six). Ayers and Canada’s Corby tied for a tournament-best 12 receptions.
Canada increased its advantage to 16-7 on the opening series of the third quarter as Finch moved the Canadians 81 yards on five plays with Christopher Amoah taking a screen pass and rumbling 26 yards for the score. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt left the lead at nine.
“We had to control the tempo of the football game, and we knew it had to happen up front with the offensive line, and that was our game plan going into the tournament and we kept with it all the way through,” Canada head coach Noel Thorpe said.
Team USA answered on its next drive, moving 78 yards in 11 plays before Scott hit Rodney Adams from 12 yards out to trim the Canada lead to 16-14 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Canada extended its cushion back to two scores with a 64-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, making it 23-14 with 5:10 left in the game on a 10-yard run by Mercer Timmis.
Canada appeared to have iced the game when Scott was intercepted for the second time on the night by McGee to end the next drive. Canada drove to the Americans’ 26-yard line before a bad shotgun snap rolled all the way back to the Canada 45, where it was recovered by Team USA safety Tyler Willis. A personal foul called against Canada on the play moved the ball to the Canada 30, and Van Winkle drilled a 43-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-17 with 1:47 to go.
Out of timeouts, Team USA went with an on-side kick. The Americans fielded the ball but before it traveled 10 yards, which would have given the ball to Canada but the Canadians were ruled to be offsides on the kick. On the re-kick, the U.S. tried a pooch kickoff, which Canada recovered on its own 24-yard line and ran out the clock.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Specht said of his U.S. players. “I’m proud of these young men. I hope they don’t put the destination ahead of the journey. They made friends for a lifetime here these two weeks. That outweighs any game.”
“We had one goal and one goal in mind and that was to come back with a Gold Medal around our neck,” Canadian head coach Thorpe said. “These guys believed in it, and they played 48 minutes of solid football. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
Ayers was named Team USA’s MVP for the second time in the tournament, catching five passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Earlier in the day, Japan defeated Austria, 7-0, to earn the world championship’s bronze medal. Japan also earned bronze in the first IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio, in 2009.
Game stories and statistics from all 12 tournament games can be found at: http://u19championship.com/schedule.
(Photo: USA Football/@CIMAGES)