IFAF Americas Flag Football World Championship: United States captures Gold Medal after beating Mexico in exciting Women’s final

The World Champions added the IFAF Americas Flag Football World Championship to their collection on a balmy Friday night in North Carolina, but it was close as the United States edged Mexico 26-21.

The traditional rivals traded scores and stops during a thrilling content made all the more exciting by a partisan crowd that packed the United States Performance Center with a raucous atmosphere that spurred on both teams.

Starring in her home state, US wide receiver Madison Fulford reeled in four touchdown catches from quarterback Vanita Krouch but in the end it came down to an interception inside the final minute from Amber Clark that settled the contest.

“It’s especially rewarding but we’ve prepared for this,” said Fulford. “It feels really good to have this win. Vanita made really good decisions with really good reads and we came together as a team and our defense really stepped up.”

Mexico quarterback Diana Flores, who was mobbed by fans and players from the junior teams participating at the wider flag football event, said:

“We were expecting this kind of game. We knew it was going to be a good game. The US did a great job today so congrats to them. Now we are focused and we’re looking forward.”

The close match, which was in the balance until the final possession, was in contrast to the group game between the rivals earlier in the tournament when Mexico’s offense dropped passes and misfired.

“I think as a group we put our objectives on the table, we knew what we had to do and we just executed,” added Flores. “I’m proud of my team.”

Just as they had been when meeting two days ago, the United States were clinical in their execution on offense. Having denied Mexico on the game’s opening possession, the Americans overcame an uncharacteristic drop by receiver Joann Overstreet by moving the ball to midfield with a perfect Krouch to Kennedy Foster pass. On the next play, Krouch found Fulford high in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

Down 6-0 Mexico replied with a first down grab by Pamela Reyes and then Ariana Lora took the ball to within a yard of the end zone, but Flores was intercepted by Amber Clark, shutting down hopes for an immediate comeback.

Much to the delight of a deafening and boisterous Mexican crowd in the packed stands, two batted passes stopped the United States’ next attack. Flores then went to work, needing just three passes to level the score with a touchdown pass to Ana Aguayo and take a 7-6 lead with the point after.

The Mexican defense held again and having moved into US territory, Flores threw a bullet pass to Aguayo and found her again for the extra point to move 14-6 ahead.

The US repeated the play that had earned six points earlier with Fulford barely in bounds as she reeled in a touchdown. The two-point attempt was batted away, persevering a slim 14-12 Mexico lead at halftime.

USA were patient in their reply in regaining the lead. Overstreet kept a drive alive with a fourth down catch then after two incomplete passes a Foster catch moved them closer to paydirt. On fourth down, Krouch found a wide open Fulford for her third touchdown of the game and a 20-14 lead after Ashlea Klam caught the two-point pass.

Back came Mexico. Reyes rushed for a big gain, plus two penalties moved the chains, one negating an interception, before Flores found Silvia Contreras alone in the end zone to tie the contest. A connection with Aguayo then gave Mexico the narrowest of leads at 21-20.

Mariel Garcia and Contreras produced crucial pass break ups on second and fourth downs to shut down the Americans’ reply but just when they were knocking on the door themselves, Flores was intercepted.

Fulford was again the receiving outlet on fourth down as Krouch improvised and threw the game-winning touchdown. Mexico went for broke as the clock ticked down and Clark shut down any chance of a comeback with a third down interception.

In the Bronze Medal game earlier on Friday, Panama took on Canada, having fought back on the second day of group action to post a 2-3 record after losing their three opening games. A close game ended all square at 14-14 and the Canadians claimed victory and third place overall with a 20-16 win in overtime. Brazil took fifth place overall in the women’s tournament with a 34-6 win over Chile.

Scores all games can be found at the IFAF Game Centre. http://americanfootball.sport/game-centre/

Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is currently working with IFAF in a PR capacity. He recently covered Super Bowl LVII as a member of the NFL PR team as he has done for 20+ years. He has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North