If a reasonably significant football event took place over the weekend and few noticed, did it actually happen? In the case of the International Federation of American Football's U19 world championship, the answer is unequivocally yes, and the Canadian team came out with a surprising 23-17 victory over the top-seeded Americans in Austin, Texas Saturday. While it would be a tremendous leap to assume the result means Canada's on top of the football world, this is a very positive sign for Canadian football, and one that suggests that the quality of young Canadian talent is on the rise.
First, a little about this tournament. It's a once-every-four years contest between eight teams composed of high school-age players (19 and under) from around the world. The first edition was held in 2009, and the U.S. thumped Canada 41-3 in the gold-medal game. That's similar to the results from the 2011 IFAF World Cup (international sides, no age limits) in Austria last summer, where Canada went on a run through improving opposition before falling 50-7 to the Americans in the final. That's not surprising, considering the greater resources, infrastructure and above all, sheer numbers of players concentrated south of the border. In fact, that's what makes this current Canadian team's victory so remarkable; it's the first time the U.S. has lost in international competition.
That doesn't mean that Canada's surpassed the U.S. in football, of course. The massive football infrastructure the Americans have means more than a single-game victory; after all, football's famously a game where any team can win on a given day. It's worth pointing out that this tournament is probably a much bigger deal to everyone other than the Americans, too; their superiority is assumed and international football is not a big event, so it's highly unlikely that they fielded the absolute best team of 19-and-under players out there. Still, Canadian head coach Noel Thorpe and his players, particularly tournament MVP Kevin McGee (a defensive back who had two crucial interceptions and five tackles in the title game), quarterback Will Finch (19/29 for 380 yards and two touchdowns over the course of the tournament, 7/12 for 145 and a touchdown with one interception in the title game), receiver Doug Corby (five reception for 85 yards in the title game, 12 catches for a tournament-high 290 yards and two touchdowns overall) and the other five Canadian players selected to the all-tournament team deserve plenty of credit for what they accomplished here. Those interested can catch video of the entire game below:
What does this really mean in the long run? Well, from this corner, it's just the latest bit of evidence that the quality of Canadian football talent is continuing to rise. We've seen that with the draft and E-Camp, and there's perhaps more NFL interest in Canadians than there's ever been. The CIS game continues to rise, with a record 145 players on CFL rosters this year, and there's lots of NCAA interest in Canadian prospects too. Moreover, there's lots of Canadian coaching talent; the U19 team's coaching roster is full of familiar names, including York University head coach Warren Craney (DC/linebackers), former CFL players Kamau Peterson (receivers) and Gilles Lezi (special teams/running backs), McGill offensive coordinator Pat Boies (OC) and York OC/former star CIS quarterback Michael Faulds (quarterbacks). They helped lead this team to something special, and they provided further proof that Canadian football talent is still improving. This may just be one game, but it's a huge moment for Canadian football, and it provides further evidence that there are plenty of north-of-the-border stars on the rise.