A month ago, they were strangers spread across the United States.
Today, a half a world away, they are champions.
The U.S. Men’s National Team earned the gold medal Saturday at the IFAF Senior World Championship, beating Canada, 50-7. Team USA defended its 2007 title by outscoring four opponents, 176-21, earning head coach Mel Tjeerdsma a Gatorade bath, a wide-eyed smile and memories to last a lifetime.
Tjeerdsma led Northwest Missouri State to three NCAA Division II national championships. This one will remain just as special in his heart.
“We didn’t hold anything back,” Tjeerdsma said. “We have only been together for three weeks. We are really proud of our players and the preparation they put in.”
Team USA started slowly as a 1-yard Nate Kmic (Delta, Ohio) touchdown run produced the only points of the first quarter.
Canada had a chance to strike right back and even the score, but a long pass fell off the receivers’ hands. The momentum that could have been was lost, and soon so was Canada’s chances as Team USA built a 37-7 halftime lead, the lone Canada score coming with 6.8 seconds before the break as Matt Faulds hit David Stephens for a 19-yard TD pass.
Other than that, the first 24 minutes were all Team USA - including a 30-point second quarter.
Backup QB Matt Bassuener (Port Edwards, Wisc.) followed the blocks of Nick Rossi (Walpole, Mass.) and Luke Summers (New Middletown, Ohio) to score from 23 yards out and make it 14-0.
Sacks by Daniel Catalano (Belle Meade, N.J) and Charles Bay (Marietta, Ga.) pinned Canada against its own end zone, leading to the Canadians taking a safety instead of punting on fourth down.
Following the free kick, a long return by Ricardo Leinhart (Sidney, Ohio) and a long run by Henry Harris (Memphis, Tenn.) led to a 7-yard TD run by quarterback Cody Hawkins (Boise, Idaho) and a 23-0 U.S. lead.
Another Canada punt, another American score, this one a 27-yard pass from Hawkins to Joe Sturdivant (Lilburn, Ga.) to make it 30-0.
Canada finally got on the scoreboard with 6.8 seconds left in the half, but the U.S. was not done. An onside kick was recovered at the Canada 38, and Hawkins hit Lenhart to cap the first-half scoring and send the teams to the locker room.
Team USA outgained Canada, 281-108, in the first half as Hawkins was already 12-of-17 for 161 yards. Harris had nine carries for 77 yards, and Kmic – who would be named Tournament MVP – had five catches for 42 yards.
The estimated crowd of 20,000 clapped and cheered throughout the display, entertained by the U.S. dominance of the sport born here but is spreading worldwide with the help of 59 sanctioned national governing bodies spread across the globe.
The U.S. captured the favor of the Vienna, Austria, audience and carried it through the postgame on-field celebration and medal ceremony.
“Full credit has to go to the Americans. Team USA played well from the opening drive to the closing drive,” Canada head coach LARRY HAYLOR said.Their offense is balanced and it just continued to keep us off balanced.”
The third quarter began the same way the second quarter ended – with Team USA on the attack.
Kmic’s 13-yard touchdown run just 58 seconds into the third quarter put Team USA back in the end zone. And by the time Harris added 5-yard scoring run to make it 50-7 with 2:57 left in the half, the outcome was well out of doubt.
“This is a great honor, to represent all our countries, and for me to be able to wear United States of America on my chest,” Kmic said. “What a great experience and opportunity. This is ranked very high on my list of accomplishments in my football career.”
Hawkins finished 13-of-21 for 161 yards and the two touchdowns. Harris had 105 yards on 15 carries (7.0 average), part of Team USA’s 257-yard ground game.
Tommy Conners (Marrero, La.) finished with six tackles, Jordan Lake (Houston) had five tackles and two interceptions, and Diezeas Calbert (Omaha, Neb.) added four tackles and forced fumble. Terrence Jackson (Media, Pa.) and Tyler Roach (Elkhorn, Neb.) each recorded second-half sacks.
Some Team USA players and coaches will fly back to the United States on Sunday to prepare for the fall seasons or return to their regular jobs. Others will take some time in Europe to savor the experience and add to their memories.
From the time they first gathered June 27 at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., for a weeklong training camp, this team came together, showing the talent and desire to earn their place in history and proudly represent their country.
Now they have the medals to prove it.
Canada......... 0 7 0 0 7
USA............ 7 30 13 0 50
7:42 USA - Nate Kmic 2 yd run (Gregg Berkshire kick)
12 plays, 77 yards, TOP 4:18, CAN 0 - USA 7
5:54 USA - Matt Bassuener 23 yd run (Gregg Berkshire kick)
9 plays, 80 yards, TOP 3:49, CAN 0 - USA 14
3:32 USA - Team USA safety, CAN 0 - USA 16
1:51 USA - Cody Hawkins 7 yd run (Gregg Berkshire kick)
4 plays, 32 yards, TOP 1:32, CAN 0 - USA 23
0:40 USA - Joe Sturdivant 27 yd pass from Cody Hawkins (Gregg Berkshire kick)
2 plays, 33 yards, TOP 0:34, CAN 0 - USA 30
0:06 CAN - David Stevens 19 yd pass from Michael Faulds (Lirim Hajrullahu kick)
4 plays, 53 yards, TOP 0:27, CAN 7 - USA 30
0:00 USA - Ricardo Lenhart 38 yd pass from Cody Hawkins (Gregg Berkshire kick)
1 play, 38 yards, TOP 0:03, CAN 7 - USA 37
11:02 USA - Nate Kmic 13 yd run (Gregg Berkshire kick failed)
1 play, 13 yards, TOP 0:05, CAN 7 - USA 43
2:57 USA - Henry Harris 5 yd run (Gregg Berkshire kick)
5 plays, 46 yards, TOP 2:36, CAN 7 - USA 50
FIRST DOWNS................... 16 26
Rushing..................... 4 15
Passing..................... 10 8
Penalty..................... 2 3
NET YARDS RUSHING............. 48 257
Rushing Attempts............ 15 38
Average Per Rush............ 3.2 6.8
Rushing Touchdowns.......... 0 5
Yards Gained Rushing........ 63 273
Yards Lost Rushing.......... 15 16
NET YARDS PASSING............. 181 183
Completions-Attempts-Int.... 20-38-2 16-26-0
Average Per Attempt......... 4.8 7.0
Average Per Completion...... 9.1 11.4
Passing Touchdowns.......... 1 2
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS........... 229 440
Total offense plays......... 57 64
Average Gain Per Play....... 4.0 6.9
Fumbles: Number-Lost.......... 2-1 0-0
Penalties: Number-Yards....... 7-69 7-78
PUNTS-YARDS................... 3-120 2-87
Average Yards Per Punt...... 40.0 43.5
Net Yards Per Punt.......... 37.0 38.0
Inside 20................... 0 1
Rushing Donnie Marshall 2-25, David Stevens 4-15, Michael Faulds 2-11, Matt Walters 4-4, Josh Sacobie 1-2, Jahmeek Murray 1-0, Lirim Hajrullahu 1-(-9),
Passing Michael Faulds 16-28-2 161, Josh Sacobie 3-9-0 29, Jahmeek Murray 1-1-0 19
Receiving Shamawd Chambers 7-74, Scott Valberg 4-56, David Stevens 4-31, Ricky Clarke 2-16, Alexandre Poirier 1-19, Jedd Gardiner 1-11, Michel-P.Pontbriand 1-2.
Rushing Henry Harris 15-105, Matt Bassuener 4-51, Nate Kmic 8-49, DaShawn Thomas 7-39, Jason Haller 3-13, Cody Hawkins 1-7
Passing Cody Hawkins 13-21-0 161, Ben McLaughlin 2-3-0 14, Matt Bassuener 1-2-0 8
Receiving Nate Kmic 5-42, Henry Harris 4-22, Ricardo Lenhart 3-63, Joe Sturdivant 1-27, Alex Anderson 1-15, Tylor Malm 1-11, Mike Peterson 1-3.