Some might look at it as home-field advantage, but the United States sees it as world domination.
Playing in its own country for the first time in men’s International Federation of American Football Word Championship history, the Americans wanted to show they can still reign over the game they created.
That point was driven home when the United States beat France, 82-0, on Wednesday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
It’s the third consecutive win of the tournament for the U.S. and puts the squad in a gold medal match with Japan at 7 p.m. Saturday after scoring a team-high in IFAF history.
The United States is the two-time defending tournament champions and hold a perfect mark through 10 games and three tournaments.
Incidentally, no games have been close in Canton, as the U.S. has beaten Japan, Mexico and France (2-1) by a combined 155-24 – 30-6 against Mexico and 43-18 over Japan and of course the 82-0 pounding of France.
“The team wanted to go out there and execute in everything we did,” said team MVP and U.S. running back Aaron Wimberly, who finished with 117 yards rushing and a touchdown. “We wanted to take one play at a time and handle business, and I think we did that tonight.”
Unlike its first two games, the United States (3-0) came out strong against the French and put things away relatively early.
The Americans never scored in the same phase in the opening quarter, as Wimberly opened with a 17-yard touchdown run. B.J. Beatty then recovered a blocked punt by Robert Virgil and it was 12-0 early.
By the time the quarter was over, Trent Steelman added a 49-yard touchdown catch from Kevin Burke and Matt Oh not only sacked Perez Mattison but recovered the fumble for a score to make it a 26-point lead.
The hot start – the United States was up, 54-0, at half – was in stark contrast to the beginnings of the first two IFAFWC games this week. Both games against Mexico and Japan were single-digit leads at intermission before the U.S. pulled away.
“It was gratifying to see a lot of guys play and a lot guys play well and do what they’re supposed to do,” U.S. head coach Dan Hawkins said. “All of that was great. Certainly that’s what we’re trying to do.”
There was an unfortunate strike against the U.S. as Beatty was penalized for targeting on a block of Giovanni Nanguy in the third quarter. Beatty will miss the title game should IFAF head of officials Bill LeMonnier and IFAF uphold the targeting call upon further review later tonight.
“When we looked at the play, the situation we have on that play is that the player who was blocked was deemed a defenseless player by rule 9.1.4.,” LeMonnier said. “Because No. 44 (Beatty) was coming back, that became a blindside block. When a blindside block is thrown, it has to be shoulders or below.
“The hit, when we reviewed it with two angles, showed that the contact was in the shoulder area, but there was still forcible contact that went to the head and neck area. Because it went to the head and neck area with forcible contact that became a targeting foul.”
The win brings a rematch against Japan, which has lost twice against the U.S. in IFAFWC play. One of those came in a 23-20 gold medal, double-overtime thriller in 2007, though no one from that team for the United States is on the current squad.
Despite the lopsided score earlier in the week, the U.S. isn’t discounting the Japanese in the title game.
“I think it’s just continuing to do what we’re doing,” Virgil said. “This game, which was great, we came together as a full unit. We started fast. That’s something we didn’t do against Japan. If we continue to do that into the next game, we’ll be great.
“It’s getting in film and doing everything we have to do to prepare before that matchup. We beat them once. Us beating them, they’ll come with a lot. They’ll come prepared.”
On the other side, France will play Mexico (0-2) in the bronze medal game. The French have never played Mexico in tournament action.
“There has never been a European team that has beaten Canada, Mexico, Japan or the U.S.,” French coach Patrick Esume said. “Never ever has it been done, so, for us to be in the hunt and get a chance to do it, that’s already big.
Photo credit: USA Football/Ed Hall Jr.