The Under-19 team from Canada did a special thing on Saturday, they won a third straight NFL Global Junior Championship. The Canadian team overpowered the American team with a 23-13 victory that probably wasn't even as close as it sounds.
Canada came out firing as Frank Bruno took a reverse pass from Dalin Tollestrup for 29-yards on the very first play. The young Americans made up of student athletes from Broward and Miami-Dade counties in South Florida dug in their defensive heels though; Canada was forced to punt the ball away three plays later.
Both teams were a little tentative in the first quarter, and traded punts twice. On the second play of the second quarter, Team Canada again broke a big gain when running back Anthony Woodson ran off tackle for nearly 30 yards. But again the young Americans dug in, and again they forced a punt.
The play of the defense seemed to inspireTeam USA's offense. Starting from their own 20-yard line, Frederick Bruno's 24-yard run and a few more short gains, methodically put the Americans at the Canadian 20-yard line. When Derek Rifenbury hit Jason Frierson in the back of the end zone, the Canadians had allowed their first score of the tournament, and the Americans had a 7-0 lead. The touchdown pass capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive, that took four and a half minutes off of the clock.
The joy was short-lived for the Americans though as Duncan Hankinson took the ensuing kickoff 48-yards and into USA territory. Canada was able to run the ball down into the American red zone, but stalled on the 7-yard line when quarterback Bruno Prud’homme missed Frank Bruno in the corner of the end zone on third down. The Canadians had to settle for a 23-yard Dan Village field goal, and went into the half down 7-3.
But a better Canadian team showed up in the second half. The offensive line dominated the trenches and Team Canada started ripping off yardage. After runs of 38 and 17 yards had taken Canada down to the USA 14-yard line, Prud'homme lined up in the shotgun on third down, took the snap, and ran it in himself for the touchdown. Canada had their first lead of the game at 10-7, and there was a tangible momentum swing.
Team USA was stuffed on their next possession, and they barely got their punt off. The near block resulted in a 16-yard punt and great field position for the Canadian team. After converting on a third and seventeen, Prud'homme then hit Ismael Bamba for a 30-yard sword to the heart. Canada had peeled off seventeen consecutive points for a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter.
The Americans could not come back. Village added another field goal to make it 20-7 before an interception by Frederick Plesius gave the ball back to Canada with just under seven minutes to go in the game. Again the offensive front took over for Canada and they ran the ball seemingly at will. They took the clock down to 3:08 and Village kicked his third field goal of the game for an unassailable 23-7 lead.
Michael Hellman added a late touchdown for Team USA to cap off a 65-yard drive, and give the game a more respectable score line of 23-13. But the win was decisive for Canada.
Defensive end Ameet Pall was given the team MVP award for Canada, and was joined on the NFL Global Junior Championship XI All-Tournament Team by fellow Canadians Prud'homme (QB), Village (K/P), Woodson (RB), Julian Feoli-Gudino (WR), Dylan Steenbergen (OL), and Filipe Fonseca (LB). Defensive End Jason Paul-Pierre won the MVP honors for Team USA.
The decisive win for Canada not only meant a third straight championship, but the Canadians now boast a 13-game winning streak at the tournament going back to 2005. It was their fourth championship in eight appearances. Congratulations to all of the players and coaches.
In an era where the NFL looks to take it's product global, performances like this by Canada can have resounding effects. "It was an outstanding victory for us," said first year coach Glen Constantin.
Michael Preston summed things up well, "The international teams again showed that football is not exclusively an American sport, and Canada have established themselves as the team to beat at the NFL Global Junior Championship. Japan and Mexico came close to upsetting Canada and the US respectively, so the global reach of our sport is clearly producing encouraging results on the field."
Editor's note: For full tournament coverage, visit www.nfl-gjc.com. Photos by Paul Martinez.