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By Daniel Rodrigues
Stingers football defensive coordinator Warren Craney watches as the clock nears the halfway mark of the second quarter. The team clings to a slim six-point lead and the UdeM Carabins are third and goal, only one yard from pay dirt… and going for it.
On the other side of the ball awaits a tenacious Stingers defense, who've fought to be among the best in Canadian university football this season. Craney is crouched on the sideline, barely able to watch the upcoming play but never taking his eyes off the field. In less than a second, the play is over; his team stood tall.
On that day, Nov. 4, 2006, the Stingers defense would surrender only three points, helping the team reach the conference championship. For Craney, it was just one of the many spectacular defensive efforts his unit has put forward during his five years as defensive coordinator. Now he has been asked to take on the same role for Team Canada at the inaugural International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio, this summer.
“Coach Craney has the two main components I look for in any coach,” said University of Laval head coach Glen Constantin, who was selected by Football Canada as head coach for the event and hand-picked Craney for his staff. “First he is very positive and has a great relationship with the kids. Second, he has a great knowledge of the game, his defensive strategy is very solid.”
The eight-team tournament will feature junior national teams (aged 19 and under) from four different continents. Teams representing Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States will compete at historic Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame from June 27 to July 5.
“Words can not describe what an honour it is to be a part of this and represent Canada,” said Craney. “To be able to go to the Football Hall of Fame, the Mecca of football… a football life is not complete without a trip there.”
The Canadians will enter as the tournament’s number one seed. From 2005 to 2007, they won the NFL Global Junior Championship, a similar event which took place in conjunction with the NFL’s Super Bowl.
“Canada is every bit deserving of their top seed,” said Chuck Kyle, head coach of Team USA. “But this is a historic tournament for us because it is the first time a true Team USA will take the field. We have done our best to assemble a roster that spans the entire country.”
Perhaps even more important than the games themselves is the opportunity this tournament has to showcase the game of football on a global level and provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of the kids involved.
“We want to do this thing with class,” said Kyle. “It truly is a celebration of the game of football.”
“It will definitely be the highlight of my coaching career,” said Craney. “At least until we win the Vanier Cup here at Concordia.”