The inaugural IFAF Junior World Championship will kick off Saturday at Canton’s historic Fawcett Stadium. The event will showcase games between the world’s eight best 19-and-under junior national teams including representatives from Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Canada and the host U.S. The Canadians will hold the No. 1 seed with the U.S. claiming the No. 2 seed.
When called about possibly coaching United States Football’s entrant in the first-ever World Junior Championships, Cleveland St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle could not resist.
Kyle was phoned by United States Football Director Scott Hollenbeck a year ago. After returning the call, Kyle visited with USA Football in Washington D.C. and shortly after was named the head coach.
“It’s one of these things where over a year ago there’s a phone message,” Kyle said. “You figure, ‘Wow, what’s this?’ And you know how human beings can be cynical. You’ve got that index finger ready to push ‘erase.’ But the Junior World Championships, as a track coach, is huge in that sport and it intrigued me when we talked about the American game of football and trying this experience out. So I made the phone call, went to Washington to meet with a bunch of people and said, ‘Alright, let’s take this challenge on!’”
Kyle will lead his troops into the tournament against France in the last game of the day at 7 p.m. on June 27 at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. The result of that game will determine when the U.S. plays again.
Eight teams will be competing in the event, including: France, Germany, New Zealand, Mexico, top-seeded Canada, Japan and Sweden. Each team had to qualify to advance to Canton.
But all Kyle can think about for now is coaching the great young men from around the country who have given their time to this cause, which started with two weeks of practice at Walsh University leading up to the game.
“These are good football players and they’re not doing this for selfish reasons,” said Kyle. “They already have their colleges picked. They have a good college career ahead of them. They’re doing this for patriotic reasons.
“We’ve got some young men coming in who are very good football players. Some colleges didn’t feel comfortable with it and some did. This was a little different to some coaches because with the usual all-star games, the kids are trying to showcase individual talents for more self interest. What’s the self interest here? It’s just playing for their country. They had the image of wearing a jersey with USA on the front and they’re playing for their country. I get to meet all these people from all over the world.”
Representing Ohio on the roster are six players, including Kyle’s own former safety, Pat Hinkel. The 6-foot-1 Hinkel is a Miami (OH) recruit.
On the offensive line are Ohio State recruit Jack Mewhort, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound Toledo St. John’s graduate at center; 6-foot-7, 277-pound Walsh Jesuit lineman Brian Smith, a Northwestern recruit; and Kent State recruit Brian Winters, whose 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame just graduated from Hudson.
All-Everything Licking Valley graduate Storm Klein, who excelled at running back and linebacker for the Panthers, will play linebacker for the U.S. He is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound Ohio State recruit.
And finally, Cincinnati St. Xavier’s David Herman, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker headed to Holy Cross, rounds out the Ohio Six.
In all there are 45 players on the roster who will be attending 33 different Division I or I-AA football programs. There are nine Big 10 players.
Helping to coach the team from Ohio is St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht, who has compiled a 54-6 record with his squad since 2003, including state titles in Division I in 2005 and 2007. Specht will be Kyle’s defensive coordinator.
The coaching staff consists of 10 total coaches who are a combined 1,497-392-5 in their careers for a winning percentage of .792. There are 155 total head coaching seasons among the staff with 31 state championships. Kyle has 10 of those.
“They didn’t hand me any manual for doing this,” Kyle joked. “You’re the first one. We’re kind of writing the manual as we go. Four years from now, somebody’s going to be doing this and they’ll say, ‘Ok, this part worked and this part didn’t work.’ Some things are going to work and some aren’t. I’m ok with that.”
Kyle said he cannot wait to see how teams from around the world are playing the game of American Football.
“It is a very interesting celebration because the world is changing,” he said. “We’re in the 21st century and it’s no shock to anybody that other countries would enjoy the game of football. We don’t own that. Other kids have had the chance to experience the game of football and they love it so let’s go play and celebrate.
“If we do this right, it’s a celebration of football and the game. Let’s play and see how other countries are doing with this game. They love it, we love it, let’s play.”
For more information go to USA Football’s website at: www.usafootball.com
Saturday, June 27, 2009
10:00 AM: Game 1 – Canada vs. New Zealand
1:00 PM: Game 2 – Japan vs. Germany
4:00 PM: Game 3 – Mexico vs. Sweden
7:00 PM: Opening Ceremonies
8:00 PM: Game 4 – USA vs. France
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
10:00 AM: Game 5 – Losing Team Game 2 vs. Losing Team Game 1
1:00 PM: Game 6 – Losing Team Game 3 vs. Losing Team Game 4
4:00 PM: Game 7 – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
7:00 PM: Game 8 – Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 3
Saturday, July 4, 2009
1:00 PM: 7th Place Playoff – Losing Team Game 6 vs. Losing Team Game 5
4:00 PM: 5th Place Playoff – Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6
7:00 PM: Bronze Medal Game – Losing Team Game 8 vs. Losing Team Game 7
Sunday, July 5, 2009
1:00 PM: Gold Medal Game – Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8
* Home teams to be decided / All times local (US ET)