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TOP > Game Report > Deers remain unbeaten by fending off Challengers

Game Report

Deers remain unbeaten by fending off Challengers


Lixil quarterback Shohei Kato looks to pass while on the run.
























OSAKA (Nov. 1)—Bruised and battered from their stunning triumph over the Obic Seagulls the week before, the Lixil Deers were a bit stale in the second-stage opener against the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers. That doesn’t mean they weren’t still good enough to win.


Shohei Kato threw for 337 yards and a touchdown, but also had three interceptions in an erratic performance that the defense helped overcome by forcing four turnovers, including three picks of their own, as the Central Division champion Deers defeated the Challengers 24-7 at Osaka’s Expo Flash Field.


Linebacker Takeshi Makiuchi returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and Daisuke Aoki kicked three field goals for Lixil, which took a 3-0 lead into halftime but pulled away with 17 unanswered points in the third quarter.


Lixil improved to 6-0 going into its final Super 9 game against the IBM BigBlue on Nov. 16. The Challengers, who dropped to 3-3, face IBM next week.


Lixil still seemed to be smarting from its 23-17 victory over the four-time defending champion Seagulls to win the Central Division title on Oct. 19. It was Obic’s first loss in the fall season since 2009.


“We threw everything into a very tough game against the Seagulls and we had many injuries, so it was hard to stay at a mentally high level [for this game],” Lixil head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said.


Neither team could generate much offense in the first quarter, with Lixil’s first sustained drive ending with Aoki missing wide left on a 31-yard field goal attempt. Kato, who completed 25 of 45 passes, and his wide receivers were just not clicking.


“Kato played poorly and the wide receivers kept dropping the ball,” Mori said. “Ideally, we won’t have days like this. But when you’re a passing offense, the performance of the quarterback has a big influence. But the defense held firm and we took care not to get anxious.”


On Lixil’s fifth series, Kato connected on long passes to Yuto Fujimori and Naoki Maeda as the Deers drove from their own 20 to the Challengers 2. But the drive stalled there and Lixil had to settle for Aoki’s 23-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.


Kato then threw a pair of interceptions, but the defense kept the Challengers from making any advances and the game went into halftime with the Deers up by a field goal.


Lixil got the spark it was looking for in the third quarter thanks to an unusual play. Linebacker Akira Ando intercepted a Kato pass, but he fumbled the ball on the return, and none other than Kato himself was there to make the recovery. He then proceeded to throw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Yasushi Nakagawa.


On the ensuing series, Makiuchi picked off a pass from Yusuke Kano and took it all the way for a score. Another interception, this time by defensive back Hidetoshi Yano, set up a 40-yard field goal by Aoki that put the Deers up 20-0 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.


The Challengers finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, when a 62-yard run by Yuki Shirakami and a targeting penalty helped give them a first down on the Lixil 1. After being stopped three times, Kano snuck in for the touchdown.


Aoki completed the scoring with a 35-yard field goal with 5:35 left in the game.


Kano completed 21 of 44 passes for 206 yards, with Tatsuya Kureta having seven receptions for 47 yards and Kaoru Ota catching six passes for 96 yards.


“We had many chances, but as usual we made mistakes in key situations or had penalties and we couldn’t get close with the score,” Challengers head coach Tatsuhide Fukuda said.