USA takes gold at Junior World Championships
Team USA may have played the International Federation of American Football's Junior World Championships feeling slighted.
After all the Americans did not receive the top seed for the eight-nation tournament; instead, the nod went to Canada.
"Football is America's sport," USA running back David Wilson said. "We just wanted to set a standard for the players that come up behind us. We did exactly what we expected to do."
That might be the biggest understatement.
Team USA received contributions on both sides of the ball, securing the gold medal in a 41-3 thumping of Canada on Sunday before 15,473 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
"Speaking for the whole team, no one had seen a football team like that," Canada linebacker Byron Perez-Archambault said.
Effort and solid play typified the American mantra.
USA quarterback, Bryce Petty, who has signed with Baylor, was perfect, completing all 14 of his passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Petty was nearly flawless in the competition, completing 25 of 30 passes for 382 yards and six scores in three lopsided wins.
Wilson, a Virginia Tech recruit, bagged the tournament's Most Valuable Player award, tacking on 87 yards and a score on 10 carries in the championship game.
Team USA head coach Chuck Kyle, of St. Ignatius High in nearby Cleveland, lauded his team's effort.
"What you saw here, this was not an all-star team. I am going to look you in the eye and tell you until the day I die this is not an all-star team," he said. "This was a team that had about a week-and-half to two weeks to get ready for our first game. Kids came from all over America. They came together for the love of the game of football and for the love of their country."
Team USA was comprised of 45 incoming college freshman players, representing 13 major conferences. The Big Ten Conference topped the USA roster with nine players. All players in the tournament were aged 19 or younger.
"It has been an amazing experience," Petty said. "I can't even put into words what this has been like."
The Americans were simply dominant, outscoring the competition 141-3. In the gold-medal game, Canada's Lirim Hajrullahu kicked a 38-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the first quarter, cutting the deficit to 8-3, but that was it.
USA rattled off the final 33 points and led 18-3 at the intermission.
Even the Canadians recognized the overwhelming talent edge on Team USA.
"We understood we were going against a Division I [college] football team in the making," Canada coach Glen Constantin said. "There's no doubt, they are what we are in hockey. It's a good measuring stick for everyone.
"I think the intensity was there, but we had some mental breakdowns, which was unfortunate. You can't make mistakes against a great opponent like them," he added.
Canadian linebacker Jean-Philippe Bolduc had five solo tackles for the top-seeded team.
Canada was awarded the top seed following an impressive history, having won the last three championships and four overall. The tournament was known as the NFL Global Junior Championships and was conducted during Super Bowl week from 1997 to 2007.
In two previous tournament games last week, the Canadians totaled 93 points, but barely edged Japan 38-35 in the semifinals before meeting Team USA.
The inaugural international tournament, which drew more than 40,000 fans for four sessions last week, was managed by USA Football, the independent, national governing body of youth and amateur levels, based in Vienna, Va.
"This was very special," Kyle said. "This is something I will remember for a long, long time. Medals and trophies, where do they put them? They put them in a trophy case and you hang a medal up somewhere, right? What stays are the memories and the friendships."
The final round opened Saturday afternoon as three games were played, including the bronze-medal game. Here's a recap of the games:
JAPAN 42, MEXICO 27: The Japanese jumped to a 42-13 lead after three quarters and cruised in the bronze-medal game. Quarterback Yuichiro Araki provided the winners with an offensive spark, passing for 354 yards and five TDs on 26-of-37 efficiency. Araki threw for TDs of 44, 5 and 53 yards in the first quarter, including a pair to Jumpei Yoshimoto (nine receptions for 112 yards, three TDs) for a 21-7 lead. Mexican quarterback Roberto Isaias Vega completed 24 passes for 366 yards and three scores to Juan Lozano, Cristian Rene Gomez and Juan Carlos Maya.
GERMANY 14, SWEDEN 0: Nico Lester's 58-yard punt return late in the first quarter proved to be the decisive score, and he caught a 28-yard scoring strike from Robert Remers with 10:26 left in the contest to wrap up fifth place. The German defense, paced by Mark Nzecho's nine tackles and interception, held Sweden to 1-of-12 on third-down efficiency. The game was a rematch of the European Junior Championship held last summer in Spain.
FRANCE 34, NEW ZEALAND 6: The French took seventh place, exploding for 21 points in the first half and totaling 335 yards. Adrien Morchez rushed for two TDs, and Alan Howell and Thomas Ruiz added one each. New Zealand, the Oceania representative, managed only 13 points in three games, finishing 0-3.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.
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