HARBIN, CHINA - Three UBC Thunderbirds played pivotal roles in Football Canada's gold medal performance at the U19 World Championships in Harbin, China. Connor Griffiths (DL) and Trey Kellog (WR) both suited up for Team Canada throughout the tournament. UBC Football's recruting coordinator and special teams coach Paul Orazietti was tasked with coaching the running for backs for Team Canada. Orazietti must have been giving some good advice as the Canadians rushed for 187 yards on 36 carries in the gold medal final. The three Thunderbirds will next see live action when UBC Football's training camp opens in mid-August.
Game Recap Canada's Junior National Team defeated the United States 24 – 6 in the gold medal game at the 2016 IFAF U19 World Championship in China on July 10. Canada and the U.S. have faced one another in each of the first four U19 World Championship finals.
With a victory in the latest installment, Canada has evened up its U19 World Championship finals record at two wins and two losses. Canada previous captured gold at the 2012 worlds in Austin, Texas to go along with a pair of silver medals from the inaugural 2009 event in Canton, Ohio as well as the 2014 edition in Kuwait. The latest win also marks outgoing head coach Warren Craney's final game as head of the program. Craney served as defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2012, before first adding the head coach responsibilities in preparation for the 2014 worlds.
"I'm very proud of these men, they overcame a lot and worked their butts off!" said Craney of this team which faced both Mexico and the U.S., the defending bronze and gold medalist, twice during tournament play. "They executed the game plan to perfection."
The win is even more impressive considering that early on, Canada looked to be in serious trouble. Following a failed Vincent Blanchard field goal from the 32-yard line, quarterback Lindell Stone found a wide open U.S. receiver down the sideline, however, linebacker Nick Cross (Regina, SK) had other ideas. He neutralized the threat as he forced and recovered a U.S. fumble at the Canada 24-yard line.
Canada was unable to capitalize on the turnover. On their following drive, the U.S. responded, taking an early 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal. The U.S. would regain possession on the following kickoff as the ball was recovered by an American defender at the Canada 26-yard line. The Canada defense was able to hold the U.S. at bay, forcing a field goal attempt that missed the mark.
Canada pulled ahead two plays into their following series as quarterback Dimitri Morand (Gatineau, QC) found receiver François Rocheleau (Saint-Basile-le-Grand, QC) along the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown, giving Canada the lead 7-3. Canada would not look back as a 47-yard Félix Lussier-Roy (Sherbrooke, QC) touchdown run would widen the lead, 14-3, heading into halftime.
The defending silver medalists would strike again early in the second half as quarterback Dimitri Morand connected with François Rocheleau, once again, this time on a 67-yard play-action touchdown strike to give Canada a 21-3 advantage. With a pair of touchdown catches, the André-Grasset receiver earned Canada's player of the game honours.
On the following series, the U.S. came out gunning, but the Canada defense was equal to the task as Bruno Lagacé (Boucherville, QC) stepped in front of a long Lindell Stone pass to give Canada the ball at midfield. Canada capitalized on the turnover as Vincent Blanchard (St-Germain-de-Grantham, QC) nailed a 40-yard field goal attempt to increase the Canada third quarter lead 24-3.
Nearing the end of the third quarter, the U.S. added a 27-yard field goal to decrease the deficit 24-6, but that's as close as they'd get. Team USA continued to press the Canada defense throughout the final quarter, looking to narrow the deficit, however, the Canada defense stood strong and held an explosive American squad without a touchdown on the evening.
The IFAF U19 World Championships are held every two years since 2012 and Canada will enter the 2018 event as the defending champions.