Last fall, Mansfield High freshman Zach Angel was on the football field, wearing the gold and black of his school. This past week, he was on the field wearing red, white and blue to represent his country.
Angel was among some 500 high school and middle school players selected from around the nation to represent Team USA at the International Bowl VIII, held in Arlington Jan. 16-17. The International Bowl is a series of eight games at various age levels that pits USA teams against squads from Canada and Japan.
“When his parents approached me about it, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity for him to go and do something like that,” Mansfield football coach Daniel Maberry said. “To me, it’s an event that a kid got to experience and seemed like a great opportunity for him. I was excited for him.”
Angel, a 6-2, 180-pound linebacker, was named to the U-17 National Team, which defeated Japan 44-7. The official box score credits Angel with two solo tackles and one assist for 2.5 tackles.
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“I was pretty happy with my performance,” Angel said. “I would have liked a little more playing time, but I felt really good about how I played.”
Angel also said he was a little surprised that he was named to the U-17 squad instead of the U-16, meaning he was playing with and against primarily sophomores and juniors.
“I was pretty excited [to make the team]. I wasn’t expecting to be on the U-17 team, though, but they had me moved up to that team.”
The road to the International Bowl started almost a year ago for Angel, when he attended a regional development camp in Arlington. From there he was invited to a national development camp over the summer. In late August, he was informed he’d made the cut.
Angel didn’t have to travel very far, given the games were just up Highway 360 at AT&T Stadium. The event started with few days of practice, primarily in the mornings, giving him an opportunity to socialize and network at lunch and in the evenings.
“It was really great to get to know all the players and to get to play against Japan,” Angel said. “They were in the same hotel as us, so we got to interact with them every day as well.”
Angel noted how much the Japanese players liked the U.S. — and especially its players’ gear. He traded items with several of them.
On the field, he said he was impressed with how fast and strong his Japanese opponents were, and though they didn’t match Team USA’s aggressiveness, they were very sound in their techniques.
Angel, who also plays wide receiver, hopes some of the coaching and techniques he learned during the practice sessions can improve his play for the Tigers this spring, when he’ll be vying for a spot on the varsity roster.
And while he likely has plenty more football games in his future, the International Bowl will be an important one in his past.
“It ranks pretty highly in the things I’ve done in my life,” Angel said. “It was a great experience to play at AT&T Stadium against another country. I’ll remember it for a lifetime.”