Team USA men’s flag football wins first-ever World Games gold

Italy scored in the opener when American players Zahradka and Jared Gerbino hung on for a touchdown and took a 6-0 lead. Just like that and the teams were off to the races.

USA wasted no time in responding, Doucette finding Map wide open on a bomb to take the ball inside the 5-yard line. On the next play, Doucette and Map connected again, this time for a 3-yard TD. After a successful two-point conversion, Team USA was up, 8-6.

Another TD pass from Zahradka, who literally played with the playbook in his back pocket, wrapped up another methodical drive for Italy and then set up another quick drive for USA. Just a few games after Italy regained the lead, 12-8, the United States was back. Doucette hit Map once more, this time on a shovel pass, and Team USA scored its second straight two-pointer to take a 16-12 lead.

The first half ended in a 24-24 tie as a touchdown was scored on all seven possessions.

Italy had the last possession of the opening stanza and Zahradka hit Gianluca Santagostino from behind the end zone in the final regulation game to equalise. Although Italy got six on each of their possessions, they also went empty on every PAT, leaving the game tied at halftime.

Picking up the ball to open the second half, the USA struck fast again, scoring on the opener when Doucette found Laval Davis for 45 yards. Another two-point score put Team USA in the lead, 32-24. American men would never hang around again.

Italy kept coming, however, plowing their way down the field in familiar fashion to cut the American lead to 32-30, but familiarly missed the PAT.

With the United States regaining possession and keeping the lead, this left the door open for the Americans to take a two possession lead. Smith tiptoed into the end zone on a dazzling touchdown run for a 38-30 lead, but the United States missed two.

It didn’t matter, as Calhoun had an interception to make the game’s first defensive save.

On the ensuing play, Smith hit Map for a touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, the United States led 46-30, with less than seven minutes remaining, which proved enough to wrap up the win and make history.

About Betty J. Snyder

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