IFAF World Junior Championships: Australia defeats Team Panama for first win of tournament but not without a fight

Australia secured their first win at the 2024 IFAF U20 World Junior Championships beating Panama 21-0 but were pushed all the way by a dogged Panamanian team that remained in contention until the fourth quarter.

The Outback squad took the lead with 28 seconds remaining in the first half on a two-yard rush from Caeden Eastwood and the first of Harry Pratt’s three extra points earned a slim 7-0 halftime lead.

Not until midway through the final quarter did Australian MVP Mason Field’s 22-yard touchdown reception end Panama’s brave resistance. A two-yard dash from Tyrell Butcher, who carried 10 times for 57 yards, sealed victory. Panama almost spoilt their opponents’ shutout but ran out of time as they were inside the red zone.

“It wasn’t an easy zero and Panama stretched us in a lot of different ways, but our defense adapted on the fly and were really where they needed to be, so I can’t be prouder of the team and everything that they did,” said Australia head coach Mitch Woellner.

“I think the win really shows how resilient the team was and that’s something we’ve preached this entire tournament. Coming back from a defeat against an incredibly disciplined Japanese team, I think we had to get in the frame of mind that we’re never done. I think without some of the sterling plays the guys like Mason really got us out of some fourth down situations.”

MVP Field, who caught 5 passes for 50 yards, including the touchdown that doubled Australia’s lead, added:

“This win means the world to me. It’s such an opportunity to come to Canada and represent your country, it’s just it’s unreal.

“We have a lot of faith in each other and we just knew that we had to stick with our game plan until we had things right and then the result would come. We really bonded together in tough times.”

Panama MVP quarterback Cristian Restrepo, who connected on 18 of 28 pass attempts for 144 yards, said:

“We went into the second half very strong defensively and we put together a good drive on offense and I was hoping we could use that momentum. Unfortunately we weren’t able to string something together but it was such a blessing to be here playing for Panama.”

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