AFW ELITE Victorious: USA High School Select Team defeats Italian National U19 Team 73-7.
AFW ELITE’s explosive, point-producing plays turned in by both their offense and defense lead to a convincing victory over the national U19 team of Italy. The display of big play potential combined with a steady dominance at the line of scrimmage added up to USA-AFW ELITE ultimately rolling over Italy by a score of 73-7.
AFW ELITE’s offense received the opening kick-off. From the start it was clear the Italian team was excited for the challenge and their enthusiasm combined with an unusual defensive scheme forced USA team to punt after three plays. It was clear there were some early game jitters as the USA’s first punt snap was high forcing a scramble pass that did not convert the first down.
However, offensive jitters were endemic to both clubs as on the Italy’s first play, after Alex Osleger (Carmel HS, Carmel, IN) stood up the ball-carrier Drew Schuler-Jones (Waupaca HS, Waupaca, WI) punched the ball loose and it was recovered by Christopher Jones (Christian Litehouse, Springfield, MO).
Starting at their own 26-yard line AFW ELITE went on a methodical 12-play drive to score the first points of the game. Running behind an offensive line that was starting to get a handle on the unexpected double flex front of the Italians, Jake Kadis (Delonne Catholic, Westminster, MD) carried most of the load in ripping off gains of 7, 8, 5 and 8 yards that along with a Joe Czelusniak (St. Peter’s HS, Staten Island, NY) pass completion to Nick Gurfein (Damien, Glendora, CA) put the ball into Italy territory. Later in the drive, AFW ELITE overcame a first and 20 after a holding penalty with a 38-yard run by Kadis to the Italy 14-yard line. On a 4th and 1 at the Italy 5, Alberto Valdez (Calexico HS, Calexico, CA) came in and behind a strong offensive push put the ball to the one-yard line. On the next play, Valdez scored untouched giving AFW ELITE a 6-0 lead. Ryan Ganson (Geneseo HS, Geneseo, IL) added the first of 10 extra points.
The AFW ELITE defense then took over the game and put away any doubt about its outcome. On two consecutive possessions, tackles for loss were registered by Evan Telliard (Riverside Poly, Riverside, CA), Lakiem Williams (Spanaway Lake, Tacoma, WA) and Dominic Kruse (Lincoln HS, Thief River Falls, MN) forcing Italy to throw and the results were disastrous for Blue Team Italia. On their first 3rd down conversion attempt, a ball thrown to the corner route hang a little long and free safety Luke Parker (Carmel HS, Carmel, IN) made a sensational grab reaching back with one hand to snare the interception. He then took advantage of some good blocks to sprint 42 yards to the end zone. Ganson’s conversion put AFW ELITE up 14-0.
On the next Italian offensive series, Andrew Schuler-Jones (Waupaca HS, Waupaca, WI) stepped in front of a 2nd down route near Italy’s sideline and with the help of a devastating peel-back block from Alec Dominick (Harvard Westlake, Santa Monica, CA) sprinted 37 yards to the end zone. The conversion made it 21-0.
On the following possession for Italy, a 14-yard sack by Kruse on third down forced the punt. AFW ELITE’s wanted to continue the momentum and took over at their 34-yard line. On 2nd and 1, Joe Kalosky (Holy Cross HS, Plymouth, CT) hit Alexander Hodge (North Point HS, Waldorf, MD) on a wide receiver screen and when blocks by Jeffrey Butler (St. Vincent Pallotti HS, Fort Washington, MD) and Mack Ripley (Bellmont HS, Decatur, IN) block Hodge into the secondary he cut across the field displaying shiftiness in side-stepping a tackler then sprinting to the end zone. The 57-yard reception and run gave AFW ELITE a 28-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
AFW ELITE’s defense continued to demonstrate their dominance with tackles for loss turned in by Lamont Roberson (Clayton HS, Clayton NC) and again by Kruse. After another punt by Italy, AFW ELITE took over at their own 46-yard line and marched to Italy’s 9-yard line, but a 26-yard field goal attempt had the distance but went just wide right.
Italy then secured its first 1st down of the game, but was turned away when Hunter Saltzman (Roundup HS, Roundup, MT) tackled an Italy receiver short of the marker.
AFW ELITE took over possession at their 30-yard line and the defense for Blue Team Italia continued to play hard forcing AFW into a third and 14. However, AFW ELITE caught Italy in a pressure and running back Alberto Valdez gained pay dirt again with a brilliant 75 yard run after catching the screen pass from Czelusniak.
Italy compounded their problems when on the following kick-off Kruse was given credit for separating the returner from the football where AFW ELITE kicker Ryan Ganson pounced on the loose ball at the Italy 35 with 1:20 to go in the half. The USA representative team converted two first downs and culminated the hurry-up drive with a 4-yard Czelusniak pass to Victor Williams (Wilkes Central HS, Wilkesboro, NC) with :18 seconds to go in the half. Ganson’s extra-point concluded the halftime scoring at 42-0.
Demonstrating great determination and much fight the defense of Italy’s U19 national team turned away USA-AFW ELITE on the first drive then on their second drive an USA fumble in the backfield was scooped up by Romeo Mariono (Predators Tigullio Gulf) who ran for a 36-yard score to make the score 42-7.
Italy’s defensive determination and strong 3rd quarter performance continued as a sack forced a third possession without points for AFW ELITE. However, Blue Team Italia’s offense was still struggling to find their rhythm and AFW ELITE offense started their last possession of the 3rd quarter on their own 36-yard line. When three double-digit gains put the ball past mid-field a falling reception by Nick Richardson (J Serra HS, Laguna Niguel, CA) gained 28 yards putting the ball at Italy’s 3-yard line. On the next snap Jake Kadis punched it over to make the score 49-7 in favor of USA-AFW ELITE.
AFW ELITE’s defense continued their domination holding Italy’s offense to one first down. Along with others defenders mentioned, Malik Garrett (Mohave HS, Bullhead City, AZ), Matt Del Busto (Carmel HS, Carmel, IN) and Brady Penning (Pioneer HS, Woodland, CA) totally eliminated Italy’s running game.
The subsequent AFW ELITE possession was a one-play drive when a short pass route turned into a scramble situation and Czelusniak found Hodge for a catch-and-run totaling 40 yards and six more points.
In the middle of the fourth quarter a 7-play USA-AFW ELITE drive lead by Cody Blair’s (Highlands Ranch HS, Highlands Ranch, CO) four rushes ended with a 26-yard Ganson field goal to push the score to 59-7.
Two subsequent AFW ELITE interceptions played very meaningful roles in the final points for the USA team. Landon Sinnis (Carmel HS, Carmel, IN) completed the defensive INT/TD ‘hat trick’ taking the 3rd interception back for a touchdown this time from 38-yards away. A second interception from Luke Parker put the ball at the ten yard line where a Chris DuBois (Alcory HS, Covington, GA) (run put the ball on the one yard line where Tyler Rosamond (Sulpher Springs HS, Sulpher Springs, TX) concluded the scoring.
The three interceptions for touchdowns is an AFW ELITE record as the secondary also consisting of Seth Thomas (Skyline HS, Longmont, CO), PJ McLachlan (Victory Christian, Tulsa, OK), Rasheed Benton (Washington HS, Sioux Falls, SD) and Kelvin Melgar (Clear Lake HS, Webster, TX) was stifling.
A key to the victory was the strong offensive line play of Spencer Campbell (Whitevile HS, Clarkton, NC), Matt Reiser (Barrington HS, Deer Park, IL), Taylor White (Denham Springs HS, Denham Springs, LA), Andrew Stanford (Fayette County HS, Fayette, AL), Kyle Smith (Southeast Career Tech, LasVegas, NV), Butler and Ripley.
USA-AFW ELITE was a team recruited and organized by American Football Worldwide. The roster consisted of high school seniors who played ball and came from 24 different states. The tour group, including parents and family, met in Rome and after a couple days touring and practicing proceeded north to tour Siena, Florence, Cinque Terra and Como before playing their game in Vigorelli Stadium in Milan. Four morning practices were held before the team played.