2007 NFL World Championships New Orleans, USA
Report By Warriors Media Man, Craig Woodhead
The Road To New Orleans
After winning the British Championships what seems like years ago now; although it was only May, the Woodham Warriors went to Germany for the third consecutive year to represent the UK at the European Schools finals. This year was extra special, as the Warriors earned third place and a once in a life time opportunity to play at the World Championships in the USA.
The team hit the runway in Frankfurt early on Thursday morning, but again there was trouble as they could not find where the baggage carousel was. Finally after collecting all of the baggage, the team were greeted by the man himself “Greenday!” who was there on the Warriors two previous visits to Germany. After collecting the team at the airport, Greenday transported them off to The team hotel.
Touchdown In America..........Eventually!
Early on the Tuesday morning the team travelled to Manchester Airport to catch their flight. Little did they know that there had been a power cut and the terminal they were flying from had been plunged into darkness and all flights temporarily suspended. Eventually once full power was resorted the team were able to check in quickly, due to the fact that they only had hand luggage and reach the plane with ease, only to find out that it was still delayed. Upon arrival in New York, the team missed their connecting flight to New Orleans just like the parents and other supporters the day before and were forced to stay a night in New York. They shouldn’t have been worried though as Coach Tait took them of a whistle stop tour of Manhattan including sights like 42nd St, Times Sq, Empire States Building, The New York Subway and ESPN Zone! Meanwhile, whilst the team were landing in New York the supporters arrived at the Astor Crone Plaza hotel in New Orleans, the same hotel the team would be staying in. Upon arrival most people either went shopping or into the pool just to relax after a stressing day. Later that night Mr Morgans and Mr Taylor lead an expedition into “the ghetto”, where we all went into a Jazz Club where the bands “The Free Agents” were playing. Most people enjoyed it, although a young Mr Joshua Barber fell asleep! A big plus of the night was watching San Francisco Giants’ player Barry Bonds break the baseball all time home run record.
The Official Group Draw
The group stages were scheduled to be played over two days. In the first day of play, our first game was going to be the USA, followed by a game against reigning European Champions Austria. On the second days play we were due to play Spain in our first game, and reigning World Champions Thailand in our second. Getting the Americans in the first game was a talking point for the rest of the evening. Was it good to get them early when they might be rusty? Or would they be fired up? There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they would be a good side, but just how good would they be?
With an early breakfast the team were taken by bus to the New Orleans Saints practice facility in Metairie, about a fifteen minute journey from the Astor Crowne Plaza. The practice facility was amazing. The indoor pitch was immaculate. It was a different class to the facilities we were used to over here in the UK.
Game 1 vs USA - England 0 - USA 32
It was not that team UK played badly, far from that. It was just how America controlled the game. Right from the off they tried to look to the air for their points, and basically they were finding their receivers. However, Team England could draw some positives from the game. Jamie Turner played exceptionally well at the back, and when plays were complete, the English side looked good. Nothing should be taken away from the performance that the English side put into this game, they went toe to toe with the team that invented the sport, and at times outclassed the Americans. MVP: Jamie Turner made an exceptional interception that he basically picked up off the ground, and offensively played well also.
Game 2 vs Austria - England 32 - Austria 35
It was great game. It swung back and forth until eventually Austria emerged as the winners. The performance was a lot better than the previous game against America and it could clearly be seen that the nerves were gone. Defensively, the performance was certainly better even when Jake “The Hitman” Job accidentally elbowed the Austria receiver in the nose. It was suspected to be broken at first, but it turned out that it was only bruising. From there on in the game became a lot more physical with players on both teams going up that little bit harder and dropping the shoulder on the run. Although it was a loss, there was no shame in the score line. Another big bonus of the game was that Kiaran Dixon became the first ever English player to score a touchdown at a World Championship, a great achievement in its own right. MVP; Andrew Mather. He scored on a couple of plays against the Austrians; one of them was a great catch.
After their games were finished, the team were taken on a tour of the practice facility where they visited the player’s locker rooms, and Coach Tait broke into an open office for a golden photo opportunity. Again the team had no time to go back to the hotel as they were taken to Blue Bayou Water Park where they had a fun time swimming before returning to the hotel for a good nights sleep before the next day of play.
Just like the day before, the team left the hotel early to travel to the practice facility for the day’s games. It was still possible to qualify for the Semi Finals, but it was extremely complicated, so the players were in a very relaxed mood for the games ahead. First game was against Spain who beat the Warriors in the Semi-Finals at the European Schools Championships, so the Warriors were out for revenge.
Game 3 vs Spain - England 27 - Spain 12
The first win for a British team at a World championship! The game was closer than what the score reflects though the British team were 14 points up at one stage and looked set for an easy win, however, the Spanish lead a comeback to make the game tight. The game was put beyond all doubt when Chris Barber intercepted a pass in the back of the end zone to give the Warriors the win. MVP; a joint MVP for this game Chris Barber and Jake Job. Chris led the offence smoothly, while Jake picked up three touchdowns on the way to victory.
Game 4 vs Thailand -England 36 - Thailand 57
Personally I thought this was our best performance yet. Thailand, who have won the tournament for the past two years, had to dig deep to find a way to overcome the British side. The game was really close to start with, and then Thailand pulled away, only to see their lead cut to 9 points at one stage, before eventually over powering the English team. MVP: Kiaran Dixon played fantastically and led from the front as captain.This latest score left England with a 1-3 record which is nothing to be ashamed of at all. They finished in 7th spot above China, South Korea and Spain.
In the Semi-finals, It was USA vs. Canada and Mexico vs. Thailand. Both were really close games in which it went down to the final seconds. The Canada game was decided by a sack and the Mexico Thailand game came down to one point! Eventually after all of the drama, Mexico and Canada emerged as winners and would later play the final at the Louisiana Superdome.
After being given an honorary press pass by Mike Preston the PR director for the event, I was allowed to go pitchside along with the team at the Superdome for the World Championship final and for the pre season game that followed. The final was an exciting game, however Canada won the game 27-14 to be crowned world champions. After the final was over the trophy presentation took place, where Mexico #1 Daniel Mier claimed the male MVP of the tournament and Canadian #2 Alexandra Petermann claimed the Female player of the tournament. Also every country had their own MVP. Kiaran Dixon won the prize for Team England to cap off a great tournament for him. The team then sat back and relaxed pitch side at the Superdome to watch the New Orleans Saints vs. The Buffalo Bills. They were not able to relax long as they were given the opportunity to put on a flag demonstration at halftime in front of 50,000 people against Japan. You could tell that the NFL game was preseason, as the starters only played a couple of series at most, however this did not bother the flag players, as for many of them this was their first taste of an NFL game. The Bills ran out winners by 13 points to 10. After the game the players stayed pitch side to meet their favourite NFL superstars such as: Reggie Bush and Marques Colston and I was able to take advantage of the free food and drinks that are put on for the Media in the press box.
When the team arrived back at the hotel and got changed, Mr Morgans and Mr Tait led an expedition down the busy colourful Bourbon Street. All of the players, (including myself) were taken back at the amount of nightlife and entertainment that was on such a narrow street, it was an experience!
Travel & Baseball
The morning after, the team went to the airport to start the long flight back to England, while the Supporters did some last minute shopping and went to the New Orleans Zephyrs vs. Round Rock Express in a game that the Zephyrs won 9-7. It was great fun for most, however others found it boring.
And with that it brought an end to another magical Warriors season. The achievements seem to be getting bigger and bigger. It might not be long before we see the warriors as World Number 1’s? You just never know.