U.S. team set for championship; local players prepared for European team

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2002


HAHNVILLE – Teams, coaches, fans and media from four countries will converge in Hahnville’s stadium tonight for the first two games of the 2002 Global Junior Championship. Thirty-six selected seniors from seven area high schools will face off against an uncommon threat, 36 players compiled from Europe.

The team from Canada will take to the field to battle Japan at 4 p.m., before Europe tries to knock America’s team out of the running for a second consecutive world title at 7 p.m. America’s team, selected from the Tampa Bay, Fla. area, defeated the 2000 champions from Canada for the title last year.

These 36 seniors will have their hands full tonight and Saturday, as not only the European team is preparing for a shot at the American players, but the Canadians are looking for championship revenge and the Japanese coaches and players are eager to take on the Americans.

“Some of our Canadian athletes, who know how it feels to win this championship and lose it again by a slim margin are eager to compete again this year,” said Canadian coach Ian Breck in a recent press release. “It is with the same pride and determination that our young players will fly the Canadian colors on American soil.”

The Canadians return to the tournament under an experienced quarterback, Mike Foulds. Foulds led the team last year and is a star prospect at St. Andrews College.

Karr head coach, Don Wattingly, has been working alongside local coaches such as Frank Monica, Lou Valdin and Stephen Roubicheaux, as well as a list of other New Orleans area coaches, whom combined add up more than 300 years of coaching experience.

While the Japanese team practices on St. Charles Catholic High’s field and the Canadian team takes Hahnville’s, America’s team has been preparing for the global battle at Muss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner.

“It’s an honor to play and I’m glad they picked us. The game’s got a special emphasis because of what happened in September,” agreed Hahnville seniors Ben Maxwell, Jeramie Wright and Mark Young.

“We’ve got a lot of skill. The size. There’s a lot of talent out here. We can win,” said Maxwell.

They said although there was little time for team practices, America’s team makes up for it with talent.

“We’ve got the best of the best from different areas,” said Young.

However, the best of the best didn’t have their best practice at their first meeting, because the players are used to different plays and different styles of offense and defense. It took them a few days to get into their full swing, but the players now give each other compliments and give pointers for more speed on the field.

“Everything’s come together real well,” continued Wright. “I think we gelled a lot quicker because of the amount of skill.”

The players explained there shouldn’t be any big surprises in the way of trick plays, because there are restrictions, such as no stunt blitzes or men in motion, to keep things on a level playing field. They agreed their first opponent, Europe, will be formidable, because “they should be well-coached,” said Wright.

Europe’s team, who held the championship in 1999, held a four-day mini camp in Orlando, Fla. before making the trip to New Orleans. They return under head coach, Tony Allen, who led them into all five of their previous matches and selected players from 10 different countries across the continent.

“Language is a natural barrier before we even get past the hurdle of having only a limited time to prepare,” Allen commented in a recent press release. “Getting these youngsters from all over Europe together for mini camp and practice sessions is a major operation, but we’re looking forward to taking on the best from across the world and this is the experience of a lifetime for these kids.”

Japan’s coach, Kazunari Nakazawa, agrees his players are a little smaller than the other team, but are looking to their speed, endurance and skill to take a better finish than the third place from last year. Nakazawa gained his experience at Arizona State and as a lineman for Tokai University.

“This is the perfect platform for a young player to put himself firmly in the minds of college and high school coaches who attend the games to scout for talent,” said event organizer Patrick Steenberge of Global Football in a press release. As an example, he described alumni Constantin Ritzmann, who was a three-time MVP for Europe’s team and has recently won the Citrus Bowl with Tennessee.

“He will play his senior year in the fall and could make the transition from junior football in Germany to the NFL through the Global Junior Championship stage,” added Steenberge.

The American players in the lime-light for the red, white and blue, local fans and various talent scouts are: Darius Vinnet, number 2, from Destrehan; Jason Waguespack, 11, St. Charles Catholic; Daniel Luquet, 15, Destrehan; Mark Young, 23, Hahnville; Ben Maxwell, 29, Hahnville; Lionel Howard, 49, West St. John; Bryson White, 58, East St. John; Justin Kinchen, 76, SCC; Jeramie Wright, 78, Hahnville; Jason Wordlaw, 94, Destrehan; and Ryan Keys, 95, Hahnville.