Matt Hennesy coaches the U.S. U-18 National Team in the 2017 North American Championship. (Photo via Rachel Roberts)
It’s safe to conclude that everyone associated with this year’s U.S. National Team wants to win back the gold medal it lost in the 2016 International Federation of American Football U19 World Championship.
For Matt Hennesy, head coach of this year’s team, that’s an understatement.
He was the defensive coordinator for the 2016 squad that lost to Canada 24-6 in the gold medal game at Harbin, China. Now, in Mexico City preparing to face the host Mexican team at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Hennesy said he won’t settle for anything less than a gold medal this time.
“I can’t even tell you where my silver medal is from the last games,” Hennesy said. “I should have brought it so we could bury it somewhere. It’ll mean a lot, to bring that back. I’m one of the ones who lost it. Not only is it a big honor to win the gold, but the fact that we got it back would mean a great deal.”
1️⃣- 0️⃣ EVERY play— U.S. National Team (@USNFT) July 16, 2018
1️⃣- 0️⃣ EVERY series
1️⃣- 0️⃣ EVERY game
Our U-19 team is working hard to prep for their matchup against 🇲🇽 on Wednesday!#EarnYourStars | #GoldMentality pic.twitter.com/vjgAKqi1Uu
Today’s schedule includes Australia, which lost to the U.S. 38-0 on Saturday, facing Sweden (which lost 49-6 to Canada on Saturday) at 11 a.m. EDT. Canada will face Japan in the second game, set for 2 p.m. EDT, followed by the U.S.-Mexico matchup.
The game doesn't figure to be easy for the U.S. Mexico not only convincingly defeated Japan 31-14 in its first-round game Saturday, it’s expected to have a loud homefield advantage in the game at Olympic Stadium, site of the 1968 Summer Olympics.
“They’re very physical,” Hennesy said of the Mexican team. “Their effort is unbelievable. I’ve not seen one player take a play off. They’ve been together for three months; we’ve been together for 10 days before we got here. They’re the home team, and that crowd is going to be amazing. It’ll be loud every time Mexico makes a good play. Let’s get the momentum early and not give them anything to cheer about.”
RELATED CONTENT: U.S. National Team players to watch at IFAF U-19 World Championships
Wednesday’s game and this year’s IFAF World Championships aren’t all Hennesy has on his plate. As a first-year head coach at Pawhuska (Oklahoma) High School, with the start of the season looming, he’s not forgetting about his job back home.
Hennesy said he’s spending a couple of hours each day while in Mexico working on preparations for the upcoming high school season.
“When I accepted the job to do this (National Team), I had a team (Locust Grove High School in Oklahoma) that was kind of running itself. I had been there six years, it kind of was a machine. I took over a new program, so it’s hard for me to leave.”
That said, Hennesy doesn't regret the decision in the least.
“I don’t think there’s any greater honor than getting to coach the National Team,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Follow IFAF on @IFAFMedia on Twitter and Instagram