UPDATED GAME REVIEW: AFW ELITE Defeats France National U19 Team 19-0
Representing the United States, American Football Worldwide ELITE rallied behind a suffocating defense to post a 19-0 win in defeating France’s national U19 team in Paris on March 30, 2013. After stopping the French team’s opening drive, AFW ELITE set the tone by driving the ball 68 yards to open the scoring and take a 6-0 1st quarter lead. That score stood into early in the 3rd quarter when AFW ELITE took charge of the game by scoring 13 points to put away the victory for the visiting team from the USA. The contest came at the end of a weeklong tour of France by US players and family members.
This game was the first one ever to pit a scholastic team from the United States against another country’s national team on foreign soil. AFW ELITE consisted of high school seniors from all over the United States who are scheduled to graduate later this spring. The French team, Les Blues, was their country’s best American football players age 19 and under from all regions of France. Many of France’s team members participated in the World Championships of American football that were held in Austin, Texas last summer. The French team finished 6th at the international tournament.
After the United States kicked off, the French team completed their first 3rd down pass attempt to move past mid-field. However, three plays later Les Blues could not advance and were forced to punt. On their first possession, AFW ELITE marched 68 yards for their first score. Lafonza Alston (Harlan Academy, Chicago, Illinois) carried the ball six times including key gains of 12 and 16 yards putting the ball into French territory. Later in the drive Mike Zebold (Downers Grove South HS, Downers Grove, Illinois) connected on a pass of 11 yards to Ben Howard (Valhalla HS, Spring Valley, California) putting the ball on France’s 18-yard line. A couple plays later Zebold and Howard connected again for a 12-yard scoring strike to give AFW ELITE the lead 6-0. The conversion attempt was blocked.
After a good kick-off return, France could not sustain the momentum as the AFW ELITE defense stood strong against France’s run game. The USA front of Jerry Williams III (Barberton HS, Barberton, Ohio), Hayden Whitby (Peabody HS, Trenton, Tennessee), Jackson Baker (Oldham County HS, Crestwood, Kentucky), David Maule Watertown HS, Watertown, Wisconsin) and Paul Cowart (Clear Lake HS, Houston, Texas) controlled the line of scrimmage and dictated the outcome for much of the game.
Following France’s second punt of the game, AFW ELITE drove into French territory, however an interception and long return put Les Blues in business at the US team’s 15-yard line. Hustling back from his pass route, Jake Moross (Hotchkiss School, CT, New York, New York) saved a touchdown to keep France off the board and put the US defense on the field. The AFW ELITE defense rose to the occasion yielding just two yards in turning back the French offensive attack on downs.
On their third drive of the half, AFW ELITE again drove deep into France territory with Jabari Prim (Roseville HS, Little Canada, Minnesota) scampering for big yardage including a 44-yard gain. However, it was the French defense’s turn to rally as an interception at the goal line stymied the US drive.
After one first down the French punted the ball deep into US territory where the AFW ELITE offense knelt on the ball to end the half with a 6-0 lead.
Taking the opening drive of the 2nd half, the US team again drove into France territory as deep as the 33-yard line, but could not convert on 3rd down and were forced to punt for their only time in the game. The punt by Troy Kay (St. Joseph Regional HS, New York, New York) pinned the French team at their 14-yard line. The AFW ELITE defense was key again holding the French offense to a three-and-out.
After a short punt gave the US team possession at France’s 45-yard line they went up top right away. Zebold connected with Howard once again for 19-yards. Three rushes put the ball at the four-yard line where Lucas LaHood (Metamora HS, Metamora, Illinois) powered it home behind the blocking of Travis Richards (Pillager HS, Cushing, Minnesota) giving the US a 12-0 lead early in the 3rd quarter.
Following the kick-off, the US defense came up with the big play that lead to the US team putting the game away. On 2nd down, Loukas Sinnis (Carmel HS, Carmel, Indiana) pounced on a French fumble. The takeaway lead to a 23-yard scoring drive capped off by a 10-yard Zebold to Connor Patterson (Woodrow Wilson HS, Tacoma, Washington) touchdown pass. Oscar Trevino (Alpine HS, Alpine, Texas) added the extra point making the score 19-0 heading into the 4th quarter.
The AFW ELITE defense continued to shine as on the subsequent French drive Race Johnson (Carmel HS, Carmel, Indiana) forced a fumble that was picked up by Troy Kay who juked and powered his way 23 yards deep into France territory. A scoring chance was squandered when a fumble turned the ball over to the French just outside the five-yard line.
After another three-and-out orchestrated by the AFW ELITE defense, the 5th in seven French possessions, the US offense took over on the French 35 yard-line. Joe Kutil (Notre Dame Prep, Waterford, Michigan) lead another ELITE drive into France territory. Completions by Kutil to Kishan Patel (Elk Grove HS, Elk Grove, Illinois) for 5-yards and Jake Moross for 15 yards on 4th down as well as runs by Kutil totaling 13 yards put the ball on France’s four yard-line. However a third France interception, this time in the end zone, prevented the US from putting more points on the board.
Late in the game, a France runner bounced out of a pile at the line of scrimmage and going against the defensive pursuit looked to have a clear path to the end zone. However, Eric Dowdy (Barrington HS, Barrington, Illinois) sprinted across the field to not only prevent the score but caused a fumble that was recovered by Johnson. The effort preserved the shutout for USA AFW ELITE.
Offensive line play by the US ELITE team set the tone for the day. Up front, the US team was powered by Mason Darrow (Barrington HS, Lake Barrington Illinois), Dalton Julian (Broken Bow HS, Broken Bow, Oklahoma), Eric Erwin (Belton HS, Temple, Texas), Brock Workman (Barrington HS, Barrington, Illinois), and Gentry Oden III (Consortium Prep, Novi, Michigan).
The AFW ELITE offense piled up 18 first downs and 306 yards of total offense. Prim and Alston lead the rushing attack with 80 and 65 yards respectively. The US quarterbacks were an efficient 11 for 15 passing, with Zebold going 7 for 8 totaling 88 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The defense was lead by Jerry Williams, Loukas Sinnis and Race Johnson with 6 tackles each. The unit limited France’s offensive attack to 177 yards in total offense and 5 first downs. Kay, Sinnis and Johnson all had fumble recoveries with Johnson and Dowdy forcing two of France’s three turnovers.
The preceding day AFW ELITE team members elected team captains who are as follows:
- Dakota Sinchak – Oak Harbor HS, Oak Harbor, Washington
- Loukas Sinnis – Carmel HS, Carmel, Indiana
- Mason Darrow – Barrington HS, Barrington Lakes, Illinois
- Lucas LaHood – Metamora HS, Metamora, Illinois
A postgame celebration between American and French players wrapped up the international ‘friendly’ contest between the teams from the two countries. American players brought gifts to exchange to the French and stories were shared about the role of American football in their respective lives of the young men from both countries.
The game concluded a fast-paced and exhilarating week of activities that saw the AFW ELITE travel party visit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, St. Malo, Mont St. Michel as well as various sites associated with the D-Day Normandy invasion of WWII as well as many others.