IFAF World Junior Championships: Team Japan upsets USA to reach first ever Gold Medal Final

Japan will play for the IFAF U20 World Junior Championship gold medal for the first time having upset two-time champion the United States 41-20 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Japan’s defense was the star of the first half, delivering a dominant performance that limited the USA to seven points while opening what proved to be an unassailable 20-7 halftime lead. The Americans matched Japan in the final three quarters, but the damage had been done early on.

“The beginning of the game was good for us, but then after that the energy of the US team gave them a chance to fight back, but we were able to answer every time they scored,” said head coach Makato Ohashi.

After USA had been backed up to its own half-yard mark following perfect Japanese punt, linebacker Toshihiro Higashi pounced on a forced fumble to score the game’s first touchdown.

The Japan defense halted USA’s reply with an interception from Ryutaro Higashida, setting up Ritsumeikan University running back Takemi Minobe to score on a one-yard run. A 16-yard connection between MVP quarterback Nobuaki Kobayashi and Kwansei Gakuin Senior High School receiver Tobias Linscott then put Japan 20 points out in front.

The teamwork is the key for us, and our coaching staff is very good,” said Kobayashi. “We were all focusing on what we can do for the team, so I am proud to be MVP, but it is for the team.”

Ritsumeikan University’s Taisei Urushibara reeled off a 69-yard touchdown run as Japan showed no sign of letting up before West Liberty University running back Jaedon Alston found the endzone for USA’s first points of the game and a 27-7 halftime score.

Sanford Seminole High School wide receiver Marvin Brown caught a 22-yard pass to reduce the deficit, but Japan hit straight back as Urushibara scored on the ground again, this time from ten yards out.

Pennington School running back Keon Kenner cut the Japan lead to 14 points late in the game and USA’s second-half improvement featured 321 yards of offence, but quarterback Sungo Gotoh of Kindai University sealed a memorable win with a fourth quarter rushing score.

“I’ve got to give Japan a lot of credit because they won both sides of the line of scrimmage,” said USA head coach Mike Kelly. “Their defensive line was better than our offensive line and their offensive line was better than our defensive line and that’s what it came down to.

“I have a lot of respect from Japan and then type of program that they put together. They’ve been practicing for months and we have about five practices, so that’s not an excuse; Japan was a better team than us interiorly today and that was the difference in the game.”

Japan will face either Austria or Canada in Sunday’s Gold Medal Game, while USA faces the losing team for the bronze.

Download the Statistics Gamebook here: G6 2024 IFAF U20 – USA vs Japan – 26Jun2024


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