Just down the road from where U2 had met at school and formed one of the world’s most enduring bands, three schools from the United States and one from the UK took to the vast GAA pitch at Parnell Park on Dublin’s north side. Former Gaelic football star Brain Mullins was on home turf where he played with St Vincent’s and the Dublin Senior Team for 11 years, and he performed the coin toss for both games.
The impressive high school bands and cheer teams from both Notre Dame and Hamilton entertained the crowd throughout the evening.
For the 4pm kickoff, the Kent School kicked off boasting an undefeated regular season in 2011, earning its fifth trip to a New England Bowl game in the past 11 years. The NEPSAC team from Connecticut that had traveled previously to London with Global Football, faced a UK team representing the National School of American Football (NASF), has formed especially for the opportunity to compete against top-class opposition at GIFT 2012. Players were selected from the UK under-19 ranks and were led by NSAF coach Tony Allen, a former Director of Football Development for NFL Europe.
Notre Dame High School football has been one of the most consistently successful programs in the state of California since 1993, and during that time has won 14 League Championships, four CIF Championships and has been CIF runner-up three times. The Sherman Oaks team faced Hamilton High School from Chandler, AZ, one of the top football programs in Arizona that won three consecutive state titles from 2008 to 2010, achieved USA Today Top 10 national rankings, and also reached the state championship game in 2011.
Here’s how it all played out in 2012:
Kent School (Connecticut) 26 National School of American Football (UK) 2
In the only games of the GIFT tournament not played under regular season conditions, the Kent School emerged victorious 26-2 over the National School of American Football from the UK.
Following a scoreless first quarter in the north Dublin home of Gaelic football, Kent scored three times before halftime. Running back Cesar Antonio Brathwaite, a native of Panama City, scored on a 24-yard run before Kyle McKinnon scored from a yard out.
McKinnon from New London, CT, scored again from 28-yards out as Kent controlled the second quarter and completed his hat trick with a spectacular 75-yard dash in the fourth quarter. The UK team put two points on the board when they forced a safety. McKinnon finished the contest with 183 yards and three touchdowns as Kent kept the ball on the ground and only attempted eight passes.
Notre Dame High School 27 Hamilton High School 15
Notre Dame High School from Sherman Oaks, CA, capitalized on four turnovers as its ruthless offense took advantage of field position earned by a dominating defense and cruised to a 27-15 win over Arizona powerhouse Hamilton.
Having opened its regular season last week with a loss, Hamilton suffered consecutive defeats in a season for the first time in school history. Hamilton struck first when quarterback AJ Thigpen breached the end zone from three yards out on the Huskies’ opening drive.
But the 7-0 lead was wiped away after a sustained Notre Dame drive that led to Kelly Hilinski threading a 20-yard pass to Kyle Barrett for the equalizing touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Notre Dame’s Max Leon came up with an interception and was stopped only yards short of the end zone after a long return, paving the way for a 36-yard field goal by Lucas Alfonso, although the Knights would have led by more than three had a pass to a wide open Michael Little in the end zone not been ruled out for an infraction.
The Notre Dame defense forced a fumble on the next Hamilton drive in reply and after Hilinski was sacked, three more points looked out of range until Daniel Khan stepped up to split the uprights from 45 yards. The lead grew to 13 points by halftime as a third turnover, this time 35 yards from paydirt, allowed a grateful Saints offense to drive and Chris Colarossi punched his way through the middle for a 20-7 advantage.
Sam Sasso came out under center for Hamilton after the break and began to move the ball steadily, but made a poor decision to pass and the impressive Nick Holland came up with an interception and won the foot race with Sasso for a 60-yard scoring return. At 27-7 the outcome rarely looked in doubt, although Hamilton did dent the deficit as Thigpen hit Israel Simpson from four yards out at the end of the third quarter and Kevin Walters’ run was successful for two more points.