By: Brady Keane
ARLINGTON, Texas – Playing just 38 miles from his hometown of Rowlett, Texas, Myles Nash wasted no time making his presence felt for the United States U-16 Select team at International Bowl VIII against Team Alberta at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The Sachse High School freshman provided one of the few explosive plays for the U-16 Select, returning the opening kickoff 95-yards for a touchdown to give the US a quick 7-0 lead.
— U.S. National Team (@USNFT) January 17, 2017
Nash was later named the team’s MVP for his performance.
SEE MORE: Full box score
“It was a blessing,” Nash said. “People dream of this, so just being able to live it is a great opportunity.”
That lead was short-lived, however, as Team Alberta quickly recovered both offensively and defensively and cruised to a 37-19 win.
Team Alberta accounted for almost 400 yards of offense while possessing the ball for more than 31 minutes of the game. The Alberta offense scored on four of its five red-zone opportunities in the win.
“It really means everything,” Team Alberta MVP Payton Burbank said after the game. “We came out here and expected them to play, and they did. We pulled out a win in the end, because we just wanted it more.”
After going three-and-out on its opening possession, Team Alberta forced a fumble on the ensuing U.S. possession before quickly capitalizing on a 10-yard pass from Kristian Stembridge to Burbank (Okotoks, Alberta).
That drive set the tone for the remainder of the first half, as the well-oiled Alberta offensive attack moved the ball down the field against the U.S. defense. Alberta took the lead on a four-yard touchdown run from Stembridge (Calgary, Alberta) later in the first quarter.
But the U.S. finally got going towards the end of the first quarter. Blaine McAllister took in a 25-yard touchdown run to cap off a four-play, 62-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 13-13 with 3:19 left in the quarter.
Alberta continued to roll though, as Stembridge connected with Burbank again, this time on a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter. After forcing a U.S. punt, Alberta’s punishing run game – led by Matthew Peterson – took more than six minutes off the clock before closing out the half with a 25-yard field goal from Jonathan Guistini to make the score 23-13.
“This is all like a dream,” Burbank said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but it blows my mind. Being in AT&T Stadium, playing against Team USA – it was awesome.”
In the second half, the U.S. defense buckled down. Ryker Matthews forced a fumble on the opening possession of the third quarter that was recovered by Cameron Kinnie. Artia Taylor later followed up with an interception.
The defense went on to force a three-and-out on the next Alberta possession, but the offensive attack was unable to find a groove as the half went along. McCallister (Milton, Ga.) connected with Odahri Hibberts for a 36-yard gain to close out the third quarter, but that was one of only two big plays for the U.S. in the second half.
Alberta essentially put the game out of reach with two touchdowns – a 65-yard pass from Stembridge to Ajou Ajou and a 4-yard pass from Russell Dixon to Lucas Robertson – in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Adrian Cabrera led the way for the U.S., finishing with a game-high nine tackles (1.5 for loss). The team struggled offensively against the Alberta defensive front. Nash led the way with 26 yards rushing while McAllister added 93 yards through the air, 24 yards on the ground, and two total touchdowns.
The U-16 accounted for just 154 total yards in the game but finished on the right note with a four-yard touchdown pass from McAllister to Marcellus Scott just before time expired.
“We executed as best we could, but it didn’t come out our way,” Nash said. “We played a hard game, and they did too.”