United States 43, Japan 18
By Brad Bournival
CANTON, Ohio – Japan won the first two International Federation of American Football World Championships. The United States has won the last two.
When both countries met Sunday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, something had to give.
It might have taken more than a half, but it finally broke in a 43-18 win by the United States, and make no mistake, the fact these two might face each other again in the gold medal game made the win by the Americans sweet.
CLICK HERE: Final Box Score: United States 43, Japan 18
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“We want to come out and win every game,” U.S. National Team running back Sadale Foster said. “Mentally, we wanted to dominate. We wanted to play the game at a high level.
“Most importantly, we wanted to play USA football the way it needed to be played. We just try to get behind our pads and play the game fast.”
The play that essentially broke things open happened 85 seconds into the third quarter when Foster (Texas Tech/Lubbock, Texas) went 60 yards around end to give the U.S. a two-touchdown lead.
The run was a thing of beauty, as team MVP Foster (12 carries, 84 yards, 2 touchdowns) took a handoff from Dylan Favre (Tennessee-Martin/Kiln, Miss.) and split the seams on the right sideline and outraced two Japanese defenders to paydirt.
While that one play only gave the United States a two-score lead, it was exactly what was needed, as Japan could never catch up.
“It was huge,” Favre said. “Especially since we did it running the ball. Our defense was playing lights-out like they have these first two games. Just to get things going and get some momentum on our side. It’s always huge to score to open the half.”
The United States was its own worst enemy in the first half as Kevin Burke (Mount Union/Westlake, Ohio) and Favre each threw an interception.
To compound the situation, Japan blocked a 29-yard field goal by Ed Ruhnke (Mount Union/Bayville, N.J.) when Keizaburo Isagawa snuck through the line.
While Ruhnke redeemed himself with a 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, the United States (2-0) was very much in a dogfight with an 11-3 lead.
“We had a chance in the first half, but we couldn’t make a play” Japan coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “All we can do is do our best in the next game to get a chance to play against the United States again.”
That said, playing a one-score game at the half in the first game against Mexico paid huge dividends against Japan (0-1), as the Americans showed poise under pressure.
By the time it was over, the United States reeled off 580 yards as Favre was 15-of-19 for 193 yards, while Burke was 8-of-16 for 160 yards with a touchdown.
Aaron Wimberly (Iowa State/Duluth, Minn.) ran for 68 yards and a score on 14 carries and the United States rushed for 227 yards on 39 carries.
That was enough to offset Japan team MVP Shohei Kato, who was 28-of-49 passing for 273 yards with a touchdown for Japan.
The win brings on a very strong French team Wednesday. France has won its two games by a combined 84-9.
While it has racked up 308 yards in penalties, France’s offense has accumulated 620 yards and Anthony Dable has accounted for two kickoff returns for touchdowns and would have had a third if not for a penalty.
Add it up, and U.S. coach Dan Hawkins knows he has his work cut out for him.
“They’ve got dudes,” Hawkins said. “We have guys that have coached in France and they know them very well.
“We respect everybody. We don’t put everybody up here or anybody down there. We’re trying to chase greatness daily and that’s what we’ll do against these guys. I’ve always been of the mind that you respect everyone and you fear no one. You play the game as hard as you can and look up at the end to see what happened. We know how talented they are.”