American Samoa with Coach Pooh Taase
After spotting France a 7-0 lead, American Samoa scored three unanswered touchdowns to take a 21-7 halftime lead then held on for a 27-14 win in the fifth place game at the International Federation of American Football Under-19 Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas on Friday night.
American Samoa quarterback Ben Langford threw for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass to earn team MVP honors.
France linebacker Etienne Roudel earned team MVP honors for his squad with 15 tackles and a forced fumble that set up France's first touchdown.
"We talked about ripping the ball loose whenever possible and it worked pretty well there," said Roudel. "We had to adjust our approach for this game and it worked pretty well. We stopped the run but got tricked on the trick play.
"I think we are more prepared. We are better athletes. Stronger, faster, bigger and we prepared very well. It was very good work by our coaches to make us a better team."
American Samoa's opening drive ended when Roudel forced a fumble by Aloese Sua that was recovered by defensive lineman Adrien Baudard at the Samoa 43. Mathias Soler put France up 7-0 four plays later when he connected with Maxime Durand Gasselin on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
A bad snap on a French punt attempt gave American Samoa the ball at the French 42 late in the first quarter. Eight plays later running back Faafouina Sitagata pulled up on a toss sweep and threw back across the field for an eight-yard touchdown pass to Langford to tie the game 53 seconds into the second quarter.
Heavy pressure by the Samoa punt coverage team resulted in a five-yard punt by France from its own 26 on the next series. The punt was returned 10 yards to the 21 by Mola Tagaloa and set American Samoa up deep in France territory again. Langford found Sione Latu alone in the end zone from nine yards out to give the Samoans a 13-7 lead following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Samoa began their final drive of the half at their own 20. Langford directed an 11-play drive that used 3:39 before the quarterback carried the final 10 yards for his second score of the day. Shalom Luani carried three yards for the two-point conversion and American Samoa led 21-7 with 1:20 left in the half.
France cut the lead to 21-14 on the opening drive of the third quarter as Soler found Anthony Mahoungou open down the right sideline from 34 yards out. The drive started at the France 40 after American Samoa's third quarter kickoff went out of bounds.
American Samoa looked poised to extend the lead early in the fourth quarter following an interception by Shalom Luani that set the Samoans up at the France 19 but the French defense held and Luani missed on a 37-yard field goal with 9:07 to go.
France set up to punt from its own 42 on the ensuing series but Remi Bertellin attempted to pass for the first down on fourth and seven and the ball fell to the turf incomplete. Langford then drove American Samoa 42 yards for the clinching score as Sitigata scored from nine yards out for a 27-14 lead following a blocked extra point.
France refused to quit as Soler drove the team to the American Samoa eight-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with eight seconds left.
"We lost the game on details," said France head coach Olivier Moret. "It was not that we weren't prepared. We just aren't at the level we need be to beat teams like this. We need to work all year long.
"My first aim coming here was to show we can play football in France. The key is the next generation. If we want to be in the top three we have to work more. That's the message I want to send to all the teams and players back home. Improving the level of play in France is our goal. That's how we get better at the international level."