When two top high school teams from Canada meet at Páirc Tailteann, home of Meath Gaelic Football and Hurling, on Friday August 31 as part of the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) 2012, they will be playing by different rules of ‘American’ football. The Canadians will naturally play by Canadian rules.
To causal fans of the gridiron game who will be curious observers at the GIFT 2012 games this summer, the rules and intricacies of the sport will be something they have to digest while enjoying the spectacle of some of the best American and Canadian teams playing on Irish soil.
Some might not notice the apparent differences between the Oak Park vs. Villanova College clash at 4pm and the game featuring Notre Dame Preparatory High School from Scottsdale, Arizona, and Father Judge High School of Philadelphia at 7.30pm. But there will certainly be differences.
For starters, the Canadians will line up with 12 men on the field, which for the Americans would incur a penalty flag the moment the ball is snapped. The number of big guys fighting up front in the trenches remains the same as extra man traditionally lines up in the backfield, giving the Canadian quarterback an extra offensive weapon.
Canadian rules give the teams only three downs to move the ball a minimum of 10 yards, compared with four downs allowed by the Americans. So expect Oak Park and Villanova College to come out firing offensively and passing the ball because there is a greater sense of urgency when it comes to advancing downfield. Fans at Páirc Tailteann can expect an exciting game full of passing and points.
Backfield players other than the quarterback can also be in motion forward prior to the ball being snapped, meaning a wide receiver might sprint towards the line of scrimmage and have a head start on his defender as he races downfield to catch a pass. The Americans simply don’t allow such things.
The Canadian game also moves quicker because only 20 seconds are allowed on the clock that clicks down between plays, compared with 40 seconds in the American version.
There are multiple rule differences governing fumbles out of bounds, fair-catching the ball, the defensive line, and the positioning of the ball for some plays, but the most unique rule difference is probably the one known as the ‘Rouge’. Any kicked ball that lands in the end zone and is not a successful field goal or extra point, is considered live and if a player from the defending team then fails to return the ball out of the end zone, the kicking team scores one point – known as a Rouge.
The field for Canadian football is also a different size, but the Canadian teams will both play on the American-sized gridiron, 100 yards by 53.3 yards, with 10 yard end zones in front of the goal posts, painted onto the hallowed field at Páirc Tailteann, and will adjust accordingly.
“It makes perfect sense for the two Canadian teams to play by the rules that they practice for and are used to, rather than ask them to play the American version,” said GIFT organizer Patrick Steenberge, President of Global Football. “It will be something different for the fans who come out in Navan to see and enjoy and it should produce an exciting high-scoring game.”
The clash between Oak Park High School from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Villanova College from King City near Toronto, Ontario, will kick off a double-header of two games being played at the 20,000-capacity venue in County Meath, on Friday, August 31.
One of the nation’s top-ranked high school teams, Oak Park suffered only one defeat in 2011 and reached the final of the Winnipeg High School Football League ANAVETS Bowl for the third year in a row as defending champions.
Head Coach Stuart Nixon, who has led the Raiders fortunes since 2003, said: “Everyone involved in our program is so excited to have the opportunity to take part in this tournament and showcase our team across the pond. A trip of this magnitude has involved a great deal of work on the part of the coaches, parents and players but I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience that will be well worth it.”
Villanova College was established in 1999 and the football program was started in 2002 under head coach Marcello Lio, who played American football with Bergamo and Nuremburg in Italy and Germany. Last season the Knights posted a 2-4 record.
“This is a great step forward in our young football program and we are very grateful to be one of only two Canadian high schools taking part in this historic international event,” said Coach Lio. “This is going to be a global event our football team will never forget. Our coaching staff has worked tirelessly at making this remarkable opportunity come to fruition. I sincerely have to thank our school administration and parents for their support.”
Tickets are on sale through www.Tickets.ie/GIFT2012 priced €15 for adults and may be printed from home after purchasing. Admission is free for children aged 12 and under and a €10 student ticket will be available at the venues on game day.
Fans back home in Canada can catch all the action by tuning into a webcast produced by TodoCast Live Internet Broadcasting. A package offering all six games live and available on-demand following the GIFT 2012 event will be available through www.GlobalFootball.com and www.GIFT2012.com priced $19.95 and fans will also be able to order games in advance.