Football Canada’s Junior National Team jumped out to a 10-0 first half lead it would never relinquish and went on to stun top-seeded Team USA, 23-17, to capture the Gold Medal at the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Under-19 Championship in Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Win the victory, Canada avenged a 2009 41-3 final loss to the Americans at the inaugural IFAF U19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
“We had one goal and one goal in mind – and that was to come back with a Gold Medal around our neck,” said Canada’s head coach Noel Thorpe after the victory Saturday (July 7).
“These guys believed in it and they played 48 minutes of solid football. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. It was a hell of a game. It came down to an onside kick. It doesn’t get any closer than that.”
Alexandre Huard (Laval, QC) returned a punt 59 yards for a score and F-X Garneau’s Louis-Philippe Simoneau kicked a 21-yard field goal to stake Canada to a 10-0 first half lead.
Simoneau opened the scoring with the field goal late in the first quarter. The score was set up by an interception by Canada’s MVP Kevin McGee, who ended the night with two picks and five tackles, and gave Team Canada the ball at the USA 40-yard line. The big play on the drive was a spectacular 22-yard diving reception by Queen’s commit Doug Corby from former Burlington Stampeders teammate Will Finch which gave Canada first and goal at the USA seven-yard line.
“I’m happy for the team,” said McGee, a Champlain College- Lennoxville commit. “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.”
The interception by McGee was the first turnover by the United States in six games of IFAF U19 Championship competition. The 3-0 lead also marked the first time the United States trailed in two championship tournament appearances.
Team Canada’s special teams gave the No. 2 seed a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter when Huard fielded a Cameron Van Winkle punt at the Canada 41 and returned it 59 yards for a score with 8:24 left in the half.
Huard did not fare as well on the next US punt, fumbling a fair catch at the Canada 14. The ball caromed back to the 35 before Darius Mosley fell on it for Team USA.
Following a Canada pass interference penalty on first down that moved the ball down to the Canada 20, Brayden Scott found Demarcus Ayers for 15 yards down to the five-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.
Canada upped the lead to 16-7 on the opening series of the third quarter as Finch moved the Canadians 81 yards on five plays with Christopher Amoah (Lachine, QC) taking a screen pass, breaking multiple tackles on his way to a 26 yard score. A bad snap on the point after try left the lead at nine.
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 margin to 16-14 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Canada extended the lead with a 64-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, upping the score to 23-14 with 5:10 left in the game on a 10-yard run by future Calgary Dino, Mercer Timmis of Burlington. The score was set up on back-to-back passing plays from Hugo Richard to Alexandre Savard who are teammates at Vanier College.
“I think we did what we wanted to do running the football,” said coach Thorpe. “We established ourselves at the line of scrimmage and they did a heck of a job – and our running backs as well. Our quarterbacks did a good job managing the football game and also running with the football.
“It’s exactly what we thought it would be. 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 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 US 26 before a bad shotgun snap rolled all the way back to the Canada 45 where it was recovered by Team USA’s Tyler Willis. A personal foul call moved the ball to the Canada 30 and Cameron 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 appeared to field the ball before it traveled 10 yards, which would have given the ball to Canada but the Canadians were ruled to be offside on the kick. On the re-kick, Canada recovered at its own 24 and ran out the clock.
Finch, who completed 19 of 29 pass attempts for 380 yards and three touchdowns, was named to the first team all-stars. He was joined by his favorite receiver, Corby, who had 12 receptions for a tournament-high 290 yards and two touchdowns. Corby a Queen’s recruit was Canada’s MVP in its opening game against Sweden.