The United States put up defensive numbers in the Junior World Football Championship that are almost unbelievable and the Ohio contingent had a huge hand in that dominance.
CANTON, Ohio – Every sports fan knows the cliché ‘defense wins championships’.
It also wins gold medals.
The USA cruised past Canada 41-3 Sunday, July 5, at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium to claim the Gold Medal in the Junior World Football Championship and the stout defense the United States fielded in the tournament was the reason.
“The defense gets loads of credit because we got great field position the whole day,” Cleveland St. Ignatius and USA head coach Chuck Kyle said. “The kids played with great intensity.”
Newark Licking Valley product and Ohio State freshman linebacker Storm Klein set the defensive tone early. Klein picked off Canada quarterback Jéremie Doyon-Rock on the first series of the game at the Canada 33-yard line and returned it 16 yards.
The USA scored on the first play from scrimmage as Bryce Petty of Midlothain (Texas) connected with Jamal Davis of Coral Springs (Fla.) Charter on a 17-yard fade route in the right corner of the end zone to put the USA up with 11:07 left in the first quarter.
“A lot of that was the defense just being excited,” Klein said. “I was looking for the incoming slant and it was there and I picked it. I wanted to score but we were excited. To start off like that, it was big for us. To give the offense good field position was a key part of the game and to give them opportunities to score.”
All told, the USA held Canada to just 49 yards of total offense and its lowest point total of the tournament.
But coming into the championship game, a strong defensive performance should have been expected from the Americans. In the previous two tournament games against France and Mexico, respectively, the USA held its opponents to 42 total yards of offense, including -59 yards rushing.
As defensive coordinator for the USA, Cincinnati St. Xavier head coach Steve Specht spearheaded the effort.
“It was the team speed,” he said. “What we did was to simply not make mistakes. We wanted to put kids in position to have fun. We just had great players and team speed defensively.”
Added Kyle, “When we gathered the first few days, the kids really bonded and really got into the scheme and concept of what we wanted to do on defense. (Specht and I) were just amazed at how quickly the kids picked the schemes up and how ahead of the curve we were.”
The only blemish – if it can be called that – was the three points Canada put on the scoreboard with a 38-yard Lirim Hajrullahu field goal in the final minutes of the first quarter.
“I was a little disappointed to be honest. I wanted to go the whole tournament with all shutouts,” laughed USA linebacker David Herman – a St. Xavier graduate and Holy Cross signee. “We got over it.”
Herman had three tackles in the game.
Not To Be Outdone
It would be a disservice not to mention USA quarterback Petty and his performance in the championship game.
Petty was 14-of-14 passing for 190 yards and three touchdowns and was the named the game’s MVP.
Petty had never been perfect passing in a game before.
“I’ve had good practices but not like that,” the Baylor signee said. “We had athletes and I had nothing to do with it. I am just so blessed to have the athletes around me that can do that type of thing.
“I have never been close to throwing a perfect game.”