PONTIAC, Mich. - It was the longest day veteran St. Francis de Sales football coach Dick Cromwell and his 36 all-star senior players from northwest Ohio had ever experienced.
And, when the 10-game jamboree shootout round of the 10th annual Global Junior Championship tournament was complete last night, 8 1/2 hours after its noon start at the Pontiac Silverdome, Cromwell's tired Team USA had earned a trip to Sunday's 1 p.m. Global championship game against defending champion Canada.
That title-game berth came via a 22-yard field goal by Southview's Kevin Lanning with no time left on the clock in the day's finale, a 3-0 triumph over Team Mexico.
"It was great," Lanning said of the winning boot. "It was a good snap, good hold and good kick.
"It was a team effort. We bounced back from a bad loss to Canada, and that last drive down there showed something."
The northwest Ohio all-star contingent was selected to represent the United States in GJC X, which was held in conjunction with Super Bowl XL at Detroit's Ford Field on Feb. 5.
If Lanning had missed, the game would have ended in a 0-0 tie and Mexico would have gone to Sunday's title game with a 2-1-1 record compared to Team USA's 1-1-2 mark. Instead, USA ended the shootout round at 2-1-1 and Mexico 2-2.
For Lanning it was a familiar spot. While earning first-team Division II All-Ohio honors at placekicker in the fall, Lanning (10-of-12 on field goals, 25-of-26 on PATs) won three games.
Team USA set up the winning kick by holding the ball for the entire seven-minute second half (of a 14-minute game) on a 13-play, 58-yard drive.
Napoleon's Brad Weaver carried for 35 of those yards, and the drive was extended on a fourth-and-5 completion of seven yards from Bryan quarterback Jamie Lorentz to Hopewell-Loudon back Ryan Smith to the Mexico 22 with 2:54 to play.
Team USA also defeated Germany 7-0, tied Japan 7-7, and lost to a big and powerful Canada squad 21-0.
In the first game of the jamboree shootout round, Team USA grabbed an early lead and held on at the end to top Germany.
Perhaps fitting, an American player with German roots scored the abbreviated (14-minute) game's only touchdown. Weaver bolted 18 yards through the middle for a USA score with 2:21 left in the first half.
"I followed the fullback [Lake's Dan Tarver] and he made an excellent block," Weaver said. "The line surge was incredible and basically there was nobody there. It was just a huge hole."
Weaver, who carried 30 times for 144 yards and two TDs in the four 14-minute games. was thrilled to participate in the event.
"My grandpa came over [emigrated] from Germany," Weaver said. "William Bernicke. He was a blacksmith in Napoleon. So, we have a lot of German ancestry.''
When Germany threatened to tie the game at the end, Central Catholic's Mike Starkey helped secure the shutout.
The Germans had moved to a first-and-10 at the U.S. 14 when Starkey recorded a nine-yard sack of German quarterback Fabian Schorn.
Schorn's eventual fourth-down pass to Olaf Fries was broken up by USA defensive back Matt Feltner of Sandusky with 22 seconds remaining.
In the second game, an early turnover proved costly for Team USA.
After forcing a punt, the Americans took over on their 11 just 1:39 into the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Scott back Antwoine Ramsey was hit near the line of scrimmage and fumbled. Japan's Kenta Sato recovered at the 16 and returned the ball to the USA 1.
The USA defense stopped Japan cold on three runs before yielding a TD pass on fourth down.
Team USA salvaged a tie in the second half as Lorentz directed a 10-play, 69-yard TD drive. He completed three of four passes for 44 yards, plus ran once for 13 more. Weaver punched it in on second-and-goal from the 1 with 3:12 left in the game, and Lanning's second PAT of the day forged the tie.
"In a short game you just can't afford to turn the ball over and give 'em an easy one," Cromwell said. "Other than that, we probably win the game. But those things happen in football, and they're magnified in this short of a game.
"The kids came back out in the second game and we spread out a little bit, and Jamie Lorentz hit a couple nice passes. It was good to see them come back and get it tied up."
Team USA got a rude awakening in the third game of the day, absorbing a 21-0 beating from a bigger, stronger and older Canadian team.
Cromwell's team of 17 and 18-year-old high school seniors could be called victims of the U.S.-Canada exchange rate because 34 of the 36 players on the "teenage" team from north of the border are 19.
Canada has six offensive linemen on its roster who average 6-2 and 297 pounds, and the six defensive linemen who average 6-4 and 240 pounds. Canada outgained USA 157-26 in total offense.
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It was the longest day veteran St. Francis de Sales football coach Dick Cromwell and his 36 all-star senior players from northwest Ohio had ever experienced.