Japan International Team
The U.S. Under-17 National Team played close to flawless football in defeating Team Japan, 44-7, Monday night at International Bowl VIII at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The U.S. scored 35 unanswered points in the first two quarters and held Team Japan’s offense in check throughout the night. The U.S. employed a well-balanced attack led by a pair of dynamic quarterbacks – Will Kuehne and Justin Allen. They missed on only a hand full of passes all game in dissecting the Team Japan defense.
“That was fun and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity, ” said quarterback Allen afterward while admiring his MVP Award. “Playing with this team will be a lifelong memory for me.”
SEE MORE: Full box score
Allen’s head coach Gabe Infante echoed his quarterback’s assessment.
“What is really cool about this event is happening right now in front of us. These kids from different countries shaking hands and really enjoying each other through a football game, ” Infante said. That is something they’ll remember forever.”
Japan started fast, literally, with a hurry-up, zone-read style and immediately took the opening kickoff and advanced to midfield. However, U.S. defensive back Jared Ables (Henderson, Nev.) made back-to-back plays to halt the march. His tackle in the backfield set Japan back 5 yards and his deflection of a third-down pass forced a punt.
On the ensuing drive, the U.S. registered a crucial third-down completion to Trayton Welch (Buffalo, N.Y.) to keep things rolling and then Ray Brown (Sacramento, Calif.) registered a back-breaking run as he darted around the end and down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
It was Ables again who stifled a promising drive for Japan when he sacked quarterback Takumi Banno to force another punt. The U.S. produced another great drive, mixing run and pass perfectly to score a second touchdown on a plowing 4-yard run by Sebastian Class (Spring Hill, Fla.).
Kuehne, from right down the street in Westlake, Texas, engineered the team’s next drive with some pinpoint passes, the first two to Welch and the next two to Jalen Jackson (Powder Springs, Ga.). Kuehne capped the drive with a perfect fade route target to Christian Dremel (West Caldwell, N.J.) who made the catch with two defenders draped on him. Kuehne was a smooth 5-for-5 on the drive including the 23-yard touchdown pass.
Allen (Leesburg, Va.) followed Kuehne’s performance with some perfection of his own with a lightning quick drive aided by a spectacular jump-ball catch by Jaden Dottin (Arlington, Mass.) and then a tight-rope catch in the front corner of the end zone by Class. With just under four minutes left in the first half, the National team led 28-0.
The U.S. defense finished off a nearly perfect first half by forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Mason Russell (Windermere, Fla.) at the 20-yard line. Dottin capped this short drive when he won a high-point battle with a defender as both fell into the end zone.
After the offensive fireworks display by the U.S. in the first half, it was the team’s defense that scored the first touchdown of the second half when 310-pound tackle Chris Manoa (Mesa, Ariz.) stepped in front of a Team Japan pass and rumbled 55 yards for the score. Manoa followed his touchdown performance with a fourth down stop in the Team Japan backfield to turn the ball over.
Touchdown by #65 Chris Manoa!#EarnYourStars
— U.S. National Team (@USNFT)
Japan scored in the fourth quarter thanks to the hard-nosed play of quarterback Banno, who finally connected on a deep ball after several tries. Banno carried the load for Team Japan and did a respectable job against a much more physical U.S. defense.