2017 North American Championship: U19 game preview
Photo credit: USA Football
Fresh off a gold medal win at the 2016 IFAF U19 World Championship in China, Canada knows they’ll be in for a challenge when they face a U19 U.S. national team out for revenge at the inaugural North American Championship. The game takes place at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida at 8:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen live online for those in Canada by visiting www.footballcanada.com on game day. ESPN3 will also broadcasting the game live.
Canada’s opponent will be quite a challenge on Saturday as the motivated U.S. national squad boasts alumni like Jameis Winston [QB, Tampa Bay Bucaneers], Tyrann Mathieu [DB, Arizona Cardinals] and Todd Gurley [RB, LA Rams].
“We expect the U.S. to come out with a chip on their shoulder after Canada took home gold at the 2016 worlds in China,” said head coach Steve Sumarah who will make his coaching debut with the national team program in Orlando.
Canada’s U19 national team arrived in Florida on Monday and before this week had never played together.
“Practice has been going surprisingly well for such a short amount of time that we’re down here [in Orlando],” explained Sumarah.
“These guys have really bonded quickly and I think that wearing the maple leaf on your jersey puts you in that frame of mind.”
Canada benefits from the return of four players – J-Min Pelley, Nick Cross, Mathew Goodall and Charles Émile-Bouchard – who helped Canada to top spot in China. The U19s also benefit from the return of Ted Kubongo while Charles Lavallée and Inho Choi have experienced the 2015 and 2016 International Bowl games as members of the U18 national team.
“The fact that they’ve already experienced this game has helped those players develop and has helped the guys around them. They know the routine and they’ve been great leaders on this team.”
Canada is using the series of games in Orlando to identify and evaluate players in their national team program as they work towards defending their gold medal at the 2018 IFAF U19 World Championship.
“We’re working on preparing the guys as best we can and evaluating them. It’s an important piece and moving forward, we’re looking at who fits into the systems we’re running. It also gives the coaches a chance to evaluate the types of systems they’re running.”
The U19 national team is led by the 2018 Junior National Team coaching staff. They too have never worked together before this week.
“Everyone has the same philosophy on the approach that we need for this game. The biggest thing is how well we’ve gotten along. You have some guys that have worked together before but all the guys share the same enthusiasm and they care [about what they’re doing].
“It comes back to being proud about representing your country and taking pride in the job you want to do to help make the players in this program the best that they can be.
The first step towards defending Canada’s gold medal begins this Saturday in Orlando. Players, coaches and support staff from across the country will come together to represent Canada on the world stage.
Players to watch
QB, Jonathan Senecal
- He’s a young quarterback but shows great poise and composure
RB/DB, Ted Kubongo
- Kubongo played in the U19 game a year ago and has been impressive thus far at tailback
LB, Myles Manalo
- He’s been a leader amongst a talented linebacking core
DB, Daniel Valente and Daniel McWhirter
- This pair of talented defensive backs has been taking a leadership role on Canada’s defence
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