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Watch Ontario take on Team USA Live today at 2PM ET!
by Steve Alic
Twelve-hundred miles from home and gone for a week spells “homesick” for some.
For 39 teenagers from Ontario, Canada, it’s a wildly exciting stage that captures their imagination.
Welcome to International Bowl X.
“This is a great opportunity for our team, competing in AT&T Stadium against top U.S. players,” said Team Ontario head coach Tom Flaxman, a university coach in Canada with 11 years of experience who will make his fifth International Bowl appearance this week and his first as a head coach. The Toronto native’s players will face the U.S. Under-17 Select Team Friday, Jan. 11, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, webcast live on ESPN3. “This is a great measuring stick for us.”
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province with 14 million citizens and is nearly one-and-a-half times the size of Texas. It holds more than 250,000 lakes containing one-fifth of the world’s freshwater and a football team that can’t wait to play a game this Friday.
“I’m most excited to go out and show everyone what we can do,” said Ontario linebacker Nathan Condello, a junior at Hamilton (Ont.) Bishop Ryan High School. “Many may underestimate us, but we have the ability to surprise people.
“Obviously, America is known for being a football country,” he said. “We expect them to be talented and I think we have the skill and toughness to go up against them.”
Team Ontario held tryouts in early December and arrived in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 5, two days before the Americans.
Flaxman is a former college running back and espouses a physical brand of football. “We want to play tough and play with tempo,” he said. “I like to be aggressive and being an offensive guy, there’s nothing I want more than to establish the run.”
Thriving on Flaxman’s plain-spoken bluntness is wide receiver Jacob Grimes, 16, of Pickering (Ont.) High School. Grimes, like Condello, is playing in his first International Bowl and his first competition against U.S. players.
“This is a great experience,” said Grimes. “We’ve got a terrific coaching staff and we’ll be prepared.”
A Dallas Cowboys fan since age 8, Grimes’ anticipation to face U.S. opponents is heightened by suiting up in the home of his favorite NFL team. “It’ll be an electric feeling playing in that stadium,” he said.
“Just looking at it from the outside gets me excited,” Condello said of the Cowboys’ venue. “So many big games have been played there, so many great players have played on that field.”
Despite the striking architectural wonder that is AT&T Stadium, Team Ontario is focused to face the Red, White and Blue.
“I’m just trying to go out and prove that Ontario is just as good as the Americans,” said Grimes.
“We’re getting better every day at practice and that’s all we can ask for,” added Condello. “Everyone on our team wants this and we want it bad.”