Braden Hart’s Canadian u-18 football team may not have come away with the victory in their International Bowl showdown on Jan. 19, but the Napanee native walked off the field at AT&T Stadium with plenty to smile about.
Hart, a linebacker, helped hold the U.S. u-18 team to just a touchdown in the first half. Canada’s offensive wasn’t able to generate much however, as they entered halftime down 7-0, en route to a 27-10 loss.
“I felt we did really good to hold them where they were for so long,” said Hart. “In the end it just came down to some big plays. They didn’t drive it down the field every single time. It was just a couple of big plays they made.”
While he didn’t get the win, the experience of training with Canada’s best high school aged players and coaches was invaluable for Hart.
“The thing I took away most is I know I can play at that level, 100 per cent now,” said Hart. “A straight week of working with some of the best coaches in the country, I picked up skills that will carry on with me throughout my career. Just little habits you can pick up. Good habits to replace bad habits or new habits you can keep going with. Another tool in your tool belt.”
Leading up to the bowl game he spent the week attending two meetings a day mixed in with a daily practice.
The game itself was a new experience for Hart, as it was adapted to feature American high school rules.
“There’s less field to run across, which is kind of nice,” he said from his linebacker’s perspective. “The biggest thing I think was for the offense to get used to the rules and different motions and stuff like that.”
This actually marked the second time Hart had the opportunity to play on the same field as the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, but it was his first doing so as a member of Team Canada. He had previous represented Ontario.
“I played on it before but to have Canada across your chest, to have that pride, you’re playing for your country and it’s just incredible to be playing in such an amazing stadium,” said Hart. “Not only is it for your province, now it’s for your country.”
Hart says he’s not yet sure if the International Bowl game will be his final one before embarking on his university career with the York University Lions or if he’ll play with the Junior Gaels this summer. The NDSS Golden Hawk wrapped up his KASSAA career in October before committing to York U for this coming fall. Either way he’s already busy working on endurance drills in the hopes of hitting the ground running for his OUA career.