IFAF WWC: Mexico arrived angry, trounces Australia

Mexico may have arrived late to the 2022 IFAF Women’s World Championship but showed that they came ready to play after defeating Team Australia 34-6 in the first consolation round of the tournament.

Due to circumstances beyond the control of the team, they were unable to arrive in Finland in time for their opening game against Great Britain and so had to forfeit the game and a chance at winning a medal. The entire troupe made it in stages by August 1 and so by the time the game against Australia who were losers of their first round game to Canada, came around, the Mexican squad was definitely primed for action.

Under head coach Jovanni Carillo’s urging, the Mexicans jumped out to a three touchdown lead and never looked back.

Team Mexico began the game with an eight play, 79 yard drive that ended with running back Andrea Romero catching a seven yard scoring pass from quarterback Maria Cruz with 6:56 left in the first quarter. Australia’s Dania Herdman blocked the extra point, but Cruz found Maria Pacheco for an 11 yard score just before the quarter ended and the pair added a two-point convert to give Mexico a 14-0 lead heading into the second period. Mexico kept up the pressure by adding another touchdown, this time with Cruz hitting Maria Barbosa from nine yards out. The two point conversion attempt failed, and so the score at half was 20-0 Mexico.

Team Mexico RB Maria Pacheco #27 Photo: Geoff White

Australia finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter after Sarah Stevens sacked Cruz on the Mexican six yard line forcing a turnover. Running back Casey Byrne took the ball in from the four yard line, but the two point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 20-6. Team Mexico ended any Australian hopes of a comeback when Romero scored again, this time from the three yard line with 1:39 left in the third. The Cruz-Pacheco combination added the two point conversion to give Mexico a 22 point cushion. Barbosa caught a 13 yard scoring pass from Cruz with 2:46 remaining in the game. After the 2 point conversion pass failed, the final score stood at 34-6.

The Mexican aerial attack, led by Cruz, was simply too efficient for the Australians on this day. Cruz completed 20 of 34 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns. This was not because the Mexican quarterback had all day to hit wide open receivers. The Australian defensive line kept her under constant pressure, but Cruz was able to buy herself enough time to launch the ball. Australian defenders often had the Mexican receivers surrounded, but they outfought the defenders for the ball.

Cruz spread her passes around, as 10 individual receivers caught passes. Ana Maria Barbosa hauled in five passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Maria Pacheco added three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. Running back Andrea Romero also caught a seven yard scoring pass from Cruz.

The Mexican defense was paced by Naomi Robles with eight tackles, followed by Juana Cardenas with five. Griscel Mondragon picked off one Paholek pass.

The Australian offense was paced by running back Casey Byrne, who rushed for 45 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Isabella Paholek was not able to get untracked and completed only 2 of 8 passes for eight yards and was intercepted once. Australia’s first Game MVP, Jordan Di Mizio was held to two receptions for nine yards, and she had only one carry for a three yard loss.

Australia QB Isabella Paholek #87 Photo: Geoff White

Team Australia’s Kelly Whitehead had 7.5 tackles, including a tackle for loss. Laura St. Ruth had 7.5 tackles, with 1.5 for losses.

Mexico’s performance against Australia adds even more poignancy to the failure of the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Americano to get the athletes to Finland in time.

Team Australia is still searching for their first WWC victory. They have played well at times, but they ran into a good Canadian team, and now an angry Mexican team. They will have one more chance for victory on Sunday.

Mexico, meanwhile, will have to settle for proving to the world that they belonged in the hunt for a medal.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. He has published three books: Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field (2022), Le Football: The History of American Football in