Five weeks in Europe, six outstanding NCAA Division III college football teams and warm welcomes in eight spectacular countries have made the 2019 Global Football Spring Tours some of the best ever – and we’re not stopping here!
In 2020, Global Football president Patrick Steenberge will celebrate 25 years of organizing these life-changing experiences. College and high school sports teams eager to expose their student-athletes to the wonders of world travel and play a competitive game against an overseas opponent need only pick up the phone or send an email to make a life-changing decision.
“These moments with curious and committed student athletes, visionary coaches and supportive families inspire me and provide belief that our country’s future will be in good hands,” says Steenberge. “Next year’s travel starts this week, as soon as I’m back in the office. I’m fired up to keep exploring. Any football coach, or coach of any sport really, who wants to provide his team with this priceless bonding experience just has to call me up and say: ‘Let’s Go Somewhere!’ and we’ll take them, their team and families overseas to the place of their dreams.
The six Division III college football teams that traveled in 2019 – some returning travelers, others new to the experience – rode the Global Football experience in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Spain and Switzerland.
Following on from the University of Pennsylvania becoming the first-ever Ivy League school to play a competitive game in China over spring break, and a high school select Ambassadors team visiting Ireland and Scotland in April, the D3 colleges took flight, bound for Europe.
Ohio Northern has been a regular traveler with Global Football, this their 5thtour, and having explored the stunning Alps in Switzerland, the beauty of Innsbruck, Austria and a brief stop in Liechtenstein, they headed to Bavaria, Germany.
Game day on May 19 provided a stern test against a determined Allgäu Comets squad and it needed a 40-yard field goal from Cameron Hollander with 2:48 remaining to edge the hosts 9-7 at the Illerstadion in Kempten.
The Comets, who play in the top level of the German Football League, took a 7-0 lead with 5-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half by Calvin Stitt to cap a 7-play, 76-yard drive. The break seemed to spark the ONU defense, which was on the field for 18:01 of the 24 minutes in the first half and held the Comets to just 50 yards of offense the remainder of the game. A.J. Marks got the Polar Bears within 7-6 with a 1-yard run at the 2:31 mark of the third quarter before Hollander sealed the deal.
That same afternoon, in Rome, the Lazio Ducks hosted a University of the South football team that was traveling for the first time with Global Football, under the leadership of Coach Travis Rundle, who had been to Finland when a defensive coordinator at Illinois Wesleyan. He and Steenberge first met when Travis was a graduate assistant at Penn State and Patrick was running the Football Fantasy Camp in State College, Pa.
Coach Rundle’s team, along with a huge ‘friends & families’ entourage of supporters, wrapped up a memorable trip that began with 3 very special days in Athens and the Greek Islands, plus historic visits to Pompeii, Naples and Rome before the Sewanee Tigers faced the Lazio Ducks. Longtime friend Fabrizio Cuppelini’s playoff-qualifying team played tough, but in the end were defeated 60-16. In typical Global Football style though, both teams celebrated together post-game on the field and then afterwards, having made dear new friends.
Muhlenberg College were also first-time travelers with Global Football and took in Rome, Florence and Sorrento before facing Guelfi Firenze in Florence on May 25. Coach Nate Milne is eagerly anticipating the upcoming 2019 season after winning 2 games in the NCAA playoffs in 2018, and feels the many intangibles of their Italy tour will help them succeed on and off the field.
The Mules scored on all three of their possessions in a 21-0 win, with lightning shortening the contest as the two teams held a combined warmups for about an hour before playing. Coach Art Briles has the Guelfi in the FIDAF playoffs as the Florentine team finished the regular season with a 6-2 record in the Italian League First Division and used the Muhlenberg experience to prepare for an upcoming playoff game.
“We had the honor to practice with them beforehand and teach them techniques only Americans know with our years of experience,” explained lineman Frank Cresta. “What surprised me about the Italian players was how interested they were in what we had to show them. They genuinely wanted to obtain more knowledge and get better. They truly love this sport of American football. We played them, and although we outscored them, they never gave up.
“I would have to say that after all of the amazing sights I saw, the Colosseum was my favorite part, not just because of its historical importance and incredible architecture, but because as a current athlete I realized that it was the setting for ancient athletes. I pictured myself competing in the arena.”
Fellow lineman Sam Rothstein added: “Vatican City was gorgeous, and the artwork in the churches was wondrous, especially knowing how important that small country is to so many people globally. Florence before the game was by far my favorite city we visited. The crowds of people and sounds made the culture so immersive, and everywhere we looked there was another magnificent work of art.”
A week later, Global Football headed to Spain where Luther College, whose last overseas adventure was to their ancestral home of Norway, enjoyed the warmer climate of Madrid and Barcelona. Coach Caleb Padilla is excited to continue the traditions of international travel that Luther has enjoyed numerous times, having traveled as an assistant previously.
Having toured the famous Real Madrid Bernabeu soccer stadium, witnessed a bullfight and relaxed on the beach at nearby Sitges, the Norse headed for Barcelona to take on the Spanish powerhouse Uroloki club on June 1. Former NFL Europe Coach Marcos Guirles once again organized a solid Spanish opponent and superb gameday atmosphere.
Luther led 24-0 at halftime with interceptions from Christon Pinkey, Alex Moe and Parker Kizer and a 20-yard run by Deven Psyck and 1-yard end zone dash by QB Cody Hocker among the highlights. Psyck scored three more touchdowns on the ground and Hocker breached the end zone again for an eventual 46-0 final score.
By the following weekend, the Global Football spring tour had returned to Austria, this time for a game against one of the nation’s top clubs the Graz Giants. Few DIII college teams have traveled more frequently overseas than Elmhurst College, who enjoyed visiting Innsbruck before facing the Giants and then heading to Italy to explore Venice and sail on Lake Como.
The Giants established an early leadas Philipp Sommer reeled in a pass from Jake Kennedy and tagged on the extra point, while the Bluejays had to settle for a field goal to reduce the home lead to 7-3. New head coach Jeff McDonald and a top rate group of assistants knew they would be in for a highly competitive game, and had the Bluejays prepared well.
An interception and a long dash down the left sideline meant Elmhurst held a 10-7 halftime advantage, but a third quarter pass from to Kennedy to Thomas Torta and another PAT reclaimed the lead for the Austrians at 14-10. Wide receiver Sommer got open in the right corner of the end zone for the Giants to a 21-10 lead and the home advantage was stretched to 28-10 before the Bluejays mounted a comeback.
Quarterback Jake Tahaney kept the ball himself and raced untouched into the end zone to reduce the deficit to 28-17. A touchdown pass from Tanahey to tight end Ben Fridrich and Lavar Litrle reeling in a 2pt PAT pass meant that three points was the difference.
Trailing 28-25, the Bluejays recovered the onside kick, but an incompletion, a rush for no gain with good coverage downfield, a pass off the tight end’s fingertips and then a pass break up by the Giants’ American DB Dillon Dixon meant the Austrians edged Elmhurst 28-25.
The final tour and game of the 2019 series saw North Central College face Czech powerhouse the Prague Black Panthers on June 16, the 5thGlobal Football tour for NCC, with HC Jeff Thorne continuing to travel overseas that started with his father John, longtime head coach.
The Black Panthers opened up a 10- lead before the Cardinals got on the board as Ethan Greenfield scored on a long run from his own half down the left sideline.
A long toss from Broc Rutter to Matt Metz in the corner of the end zone earned a 12-10 lead with a second two-point PAT attempt denied. The Cardinals then opened a 26-10 advantage with Greenfield again a dangerous weapon, before the Black Panthers reduced the deficit to ten points heading into the fourth quarter. North Central had the final say and ran out 32-16 winners.