IFAF WWC: Team USA erupts for four second half touchdowns to win fourth straight gold

Team USA scored 28 unanswered second half points to break a 14-14 tie and pull away for a 42-14 win over Great Britain to capture their fourth straight IFAF Women’s World Championship gold medal in Vantaa, Finland Sunday evening.

The United States found themselves in a see saw first half battle against a surprising Team Great Britain squad who had knocked off Canada in the semifinal round. Much like their semifinal win over Finland where they trailed 10-7 at the half, Team USA simply kicked into another gear in all phases of the game to win going away.

Great Britain got on the board first though after Team USA wide receiver Maria Jackson had dropped two sure scoring passes. Team Great Britain game MVP Siobhan Walker caught a short pass from Sydney Green and carried it 69 yards for the score with 5:57 left in the first quarter. After Samantha Read added the extra point, the British were leading 7-0. The Americans came back with 1:48 left in the opening quarter when game 1 MVP quarterback Brittany Bushman scored on a two yard sneak. After Alaina Lange added the PAT, the score was tied again. With 7:14 left in the second, Team USA running back Adriana Gutierrez hauled in a four yard touchdown pass from Bushman and Read converted the extra point to take a 14-7 lead. The British were not done though, and with 41 seconds left in the half, running back Ruth Matta scored from five yards out. Lange tied the game again with her extra point.

Team USA defender #24 knocking the ball out of the hands of GB Lions QB Sydney Green Photo Jari Turunen

As they had before, Team USA HC Callie Brownson and her staff made adjustments at halftime, and those plans did not include giving up their stranglehold on the top position. The Americans reeled off four straight touchdowns, and Lange converted each extra point. Scoring for the USA were Stephanie Pascual on a three yard pass from Bushman, Maria Jackson on a five yarder from Bushman, game two MVP D’Ajah Scott on a nine yard reception from Bushman, and Jackson on a 21 yard halfback pass from Chante Bonds.

Team USA gained more than twice the yardage than Team Great Britain – 396 compared to 178 for the GB Lions. Scott once again led all rushers with 111 yards on 22 carries, and she caught one pass for the touchdown. Gutierrez contributed 38 yards on 13 carries. In addition to her rushing touchdown, Bushman gained 201 yards through the air on 19 of 27 passing and had four scoring passes. After a rough start, Jackson was the game’s top receiver with four catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Bonds caught another four for 43 yards, and Pascual snagged four for 21 yards and one touchdown.

Team Great Britain RB Siobhan Walker #27 catching a pass Photo: Jari Turunen

For Team Great Britain, the offense sputtered, and they were only able to grind out 178 yards. Green completed four passes in 17 attempts for 80 yards, and the long TD to Walker. She also ran for 21 yards on six carries. Matta carried the ball 14 times for 60 yards and one TD. Walker caught four passes for 80 yards, most of which came on her scoring play.

Seventeen Team USA defenders had tackles, led by defensive back Darcy Leslie with 4.5, including one for a loss.

Great Britain game MVP, defensive back Phoebe Schecter, was all over the field in the first half, and she finished the game with 11 tackles and broke up one pass. Her defensive backfield mate Lucy Peaty had nine, including being in on one tackle for a loss. Defensive lineman Delta Npuna and linebacker Summer Rivers both had a quarterback sack.

Bushman repeated as game MVP for the Americans and was also named overall Tournament MVP. Matta earned the honor for the British.

Team Great Britain HC Chris Stone:

“It was a great game. For us, I almost try to take it back from just this game for us as a program. We always talked about our goal was to make history, and that’s what we’ve achieved here. We’re the first Great Britain team to medal in any championship – men’s, women’s, under 19s, flags, so for us, that was always the goal.”

Team USA HC Brownson congratulated Great Britain and was proud of her own team:

“Extremely impressive and so much to be proud of. Just as coach (Stone) said, this elevates the game internationally. There are young girls back in Great Britain who you guys just made this a possibility for.

All forty five of them (Team USA) came here for their own specific reasons and fought their own adversity to get here and ultimately to get to this point, so I’m just so happy for our players. Just a great moment for us.”

So with gold going to the United States and bronze to Mexico, in the intercontinental battle for bragging rights, North America came out ahead, but things definitely were closer than they have been in the past. It will be interesting to see if the playing field continues to level in the next IFAF WWC.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. The University of Nebraska Press published his book Le Football: The History of American Football in France in 2016. He is currently working on a project