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July 5, 2009

Team USA wins junior world championship

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CANTON, OHIO -- A collection of 45 American teenagers gathered in Canton in the middle of June to complete a mission on the football field.

The mission was to win the 2009 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship, an inaugural tournament being contested at Fawcett Stadium which consisted of players aged 19 and younger from eight countries, spanning four continents.

For USA Football's Junior National Team, that mission was accomplished Sunday July 5, 2009.

The second-seeded United States defeated top seed Canada 41-3 in the Gold Medal Game before a crowd of 15,473 fans at Fawcett Stadium.

"What you saw here, this was not an all-star team." Team USA coach Chuck Kyle said. "I am going to look you in the eye and tell you until the day I die this is not an all-star team. 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."

USA Football's quarterback Bryce Petty, a Baylor recruit, completed all of his pass attempts (14-for-14) and threw for 190 yards and three touchdowns.

"It has been an amazing experience," said Petty, whose three-game totals in the tournament were 25-for-30, 382 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. "I can't even put into words what this has been like. I am extremely blessed.

"I have had good practices, but nothing like today. About 12 of those were five-yard hitches and they turned it up field. We have athletes on this team."

David Wilson, a Virginia Tech recruit, who was named tournament MVP, led USA's rushing attack with 10 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown.

USA didn't dominate in the capacity it did earlier in the tournament in victories over France (78-0) and Mexico (55-0) as Canada offered some resistance.

"I think they were the only team that tackled David more than twice down to the ground and not just push him out of bounds," Petty said.

America's team wasted little time opening the scoring following an interception by linebacker and one of four team captains Storm Klein (Ohio State) on the second play from scrimmage. Petty threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jamal Davis (Florida Atlantic) with 11:07 remaining in the first quarter. The point after attempt failed.

"Captain Klein got them going out there and the kids played with great intensity," Kyle said.

Team USA's lead extended to 8-0 with 9:07 left in the first quarter after Canada took a safety in the end zone.

Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu converted a 38-yard field goal for Canada with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter to make the score 8-3.

"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."

Canadian running back Steven Lumbala, who carried the Canadian flag as the team ran onto the field in pre-game introductions, played a pivotal role on the Canadian drive with impressive runs of 21 and seven yards. The seven-yard dash put Canada on the USA 14-yard line, the first time in the tournament an opponent had penetrated the 20-yard line against the United States.

"They are definitely a good football team," said Lumbala, who finished with 32 yards on 10 carries. "They deserve all the credit they are given."

Team USA's lead grew with eight seconds left in the first quarter. Petty ran for four yards and then pitched the ball back to Wilson who sprinted 29 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Mike Loftus (SMU) provided the extra point and USA led 15-3.

"Football is America's sport," said Wilson, who rushed for eight touchdowns and 425 yards on 33 carries in the tournament. "We just wanted to set a standard for the players that come up behind us. This was just wonderful. We did exactly what we expected to do."

Loftus made a 27-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the second quarter that gave USA an 18-3 halftime lead.

"I think the intensity was there, but we had some mental breakdowns, which was unfortunate," Constantin said of his team. "You can't make mistakes against a great opponent like them."

USA extended its lead to 25-3 with 2:58 left in the third quarter following a 47-yard touchdown pass by Petty to receiver Kevin Cummings (Oregon State) and a Loftus extra point.

"Speaking for the whole team, no one had seen a football team like that," said Canada linebacker Byron Perez-Archambault, who had eight solo tackles and two sacks.

Petty connected with receiver Erik Lora (Eastern Illinois) for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter. A Loftus extra point kick made the score 32-3.

A second Canadian safety with 8:16 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Team USA a 34-3 lead.

Phillip Butterfield (Arkansas State) threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Plasencia (Northwestern) with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter. Loftus made the point after and the score was 41-3. Butterfiled went 11-for-18 for 128 yards.

Zach Cutkomp (Northern Iowa) led the U.S. receivers with five catches for 56 yards. Lora contributed four receptions for 53 yards and Wilson had three catchers for 27 yards.

Left tackle Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), Brian Winters (Kent State), Evan Swindall (Mississippi), Aaron Price (Indiana) and Oday Aboushi (Virginia) formed USA's starting offensive line, which keyed the Americans to 408 total yards.

"I got to play the game I love for my country," Mewhort said. "This was awesome."

The players for Team USA arrived June 13 and the first practice was conducted June 14.

"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 is the memories and the friendships."

David Herman (Holy Cross), Phillip Thomas (Syracuse) and Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse) led USA's defense with three solo tackles each.

Robert Bell (Toledo), Prestin Brown (Texas State), Chris Norman (Michigan State), Corey Lillard (Virginia), Tariq Edwards (Virginia Tech) and Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) were also key defensively. Norman led Team USA onto the field carrying the American flag.

"It's been an amazing experience to play the game I love for my country," Klein said.

Canadian linebacker Jean-Philippe Bolduc had five solo tackles.

The 12-game tournament drew a total attendance of 40,043, a tournament record for 12-year-old IFAF.

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