I had the pleasure of working the telecast of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Under-19 Championship Quarterfinal last night at Burger Stadium in Austin. Team USA defeated a very brave and very stubborn team from American Samoa, 27-6 in a game that was actually a bit closer than the final score indicated. While the Americans sprinted to a quick 20-0 lead, including a 77-yard return for a touchdown of the opening kickoff by Jesus Wilson, the Samoans hung tough, and actually accomplished something that has never been done before in this very youthful international event--they scored a touchdown against Team USA. When the U.S. won the inaugural U-19 Championship in 2009, the Americans pitched a shutout throughout the tournament. The win by an international all-star team over Team USA at the Round Rock ISD's Kelly Reeves Athletics Complex last February, coupled with American Samoa playing the U.S. tough before finally succumbing last night offers more proof that the international teams are improving.
The semifinals on the Fourth of July this coming Wednesday could be quite entertaining. The 5PM matchup pitting #2 seed Canada against the #3 seed Japan should be close, and while Team USA should be able to handle #5 seed Austria in the 8:00 second game, Austria is coming off a 40-0 win over #4 seed Panama yesterday in the quarterfinals. The championship game is next Saturday at 8:00 PM, and one of the interesting elements will be to see which teams perform best playing their third game in eight days.
The IFAF Under-19 Championship is still in its infancy. But perhaps some day this will be a tournament that draws a great deal of coverage and attendance, and those attending this week's games at Burger Stadium will be able to say they were there when it was beginning to grow.
NOTE: All three of Team USA's games can be heard on Sportstalk AM-1300 The Zone.