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パナソニック インパルス エレコム神戸ファイニーズ アサヒ飲料チャレンジャーズ アズワンブラックイーグルス 名古屋サイクロンズ クラブホークアイ
TOP > Game Report > Frontiers foil determined Deers, set up showdown with Seagulls

Game Report

Frontiers foil determined Deers, set up showdown with Seagulls


Fujitsu’s Ryota Takahashi (99) blocks a 40-yard field goal attempt by Lixil’s Daisuke Aoki in the second quarter.



YOKOHAMA (Nov. 15)—With their backs to the wall, the Lixil Deers kept finding ways to keep the score close and keep their hopes alive. It just wasn’t enough against a team that managed to always stay one step ahead.


Colby Cameron threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and Gino Gordon rushed for 182 yards and a score as the Fujitsu Frontiers ended the Deers’ season with a 34-24 victory in their Super 9 second-stage finale at Yokohama Stadium.


With the win, the defending champion Frontiers advanced to the final stage with a 7-0 record and set up a rematch with the Obic Seagulls on Nov. 29 for a place in the Japan X Bowl. The other semifinal will see the unbeaten Panasonic Impulse face the Nojima Sagamihara Rise.


The Seagulls, Rise, Deers and IBM BigBlue all finished the second stage 5-2, but the Seagulls and Rise earned spots in the final four based on the tiebreaking criteria of opponents beaten and head-to-head results. The Frontiers, who defeated the Seagulls 41-7 in an East Division game on Oct. 17, also faced Obic in last year’s semifinals, winning 27-17 en route to their first-ever X-League championship.


Fujitsu had already clinched a place in the final stage regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game before the crowd of 2,439. But pride, as well as talent, can carry a championship team a long way even against an inspired opponent that would bounce back from a 20-7 halftime deficit to pull within three points in the third quarter.


“Lixil is the type of team, they’re going to give 100 percent either way,” Gordon said. “They did a good job adjusting, a good job scouting us. They’re a good team. We gave them everything we got. It was a good game.”


Cameron revealed he was also motivated by some cat-calling from the Lixil sideline. Asked if he felt Lixil have given extra being in a must-win situation, he replied, “I think their sidelines gave more extra than the players. The sidelines were talking the whole game. That made me more competitive. I’m not trying to talk trash, but it was kind of like high school stuff they were doing.


“I came into this game thinking, let’s play well, but that kind of took it to the next level there. Now it’s full go, I can’t lose no matter what.”


It took a turnover by Gordon to spark him to make one the key plays of game.


His fumble helped lead to an 8-yard touchdown run by Yasuhiro Maruta that cut Fujitsu’s lead to 20-17 with 5:52 left in the third quarter. But the Harvard grad quickly made amends on the next series, breaking away on  48-yard touchdown romp. That restored the lead to 10 points, and Lixil never got closer.


“I was motivated, and I had some good blocking on the line,” said Gordon, who had 21 carries. “It was one of those things where I wanted to prove that I could still do it. When you fumble, or any type of turnover, there’s like a lull in energy. So we had to find a way to invigorate everybody. The best way to do that is trying your best to score.”


Any notion that Fujitsu might hold back to avoid injuries was also erased on that play. Throwing a key downfield block was none other than Cameron.


“He zoomed in front of me,” Gordon said with a smile. “I actually slowed down so he could make the block.”


Expecting Lixil to defend mainly against the pass, Gordon said the Frontiers had set a goal of accumulating 200 yards rushing. They finished with 233.


“They wanted to stop Colby. They ran a 3-3-5 defense where they had five DBs. They essentially left the box open for us to run the ball. We think that we can run the ball just as well as we can pass it. It’s confidence.”


Not that the Deers had much success in neutralizing Cameron either. He completed 35 of 48 passes for 304 yards, although his one interception ended up leading to a Deers’ field goal in the third quarter.


Cameron was so focused, he said he didn’t realize that the Deers had pulled to within three points. “I didn’t really know. I knew we were up, but [thought] just try to score. That’s our main thing. They got close, but that’s the mindset that we have, not to panic.”


Cameron threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Takeshi Akiyama, a 10-yarder to cap an 11-play, 67-yard drive, to give Fujitsu a 34-17 lead in the fourth quarter.


Lixil came back with an nearly identical drive, going 72 yards in 11 plays and cutting the lead again to 10 points on Shohei Kato’s 10-yard pass to rookie tight end Musashi Yoshida with 5:45 left in the game.


The outcome was still in the air when the Deers went with an onside kick and wide receiver Yasushi Nakagawa recovered at the 49. But four plays later, the curtain began its descent when defensive back Shoichi Hida intercepted a Kato pass, the first of three straight picks on the Deers’ three final series of the game. Hida also had the second.


“They needed to win to get into the final four, so at some point, we knew they were going to have to throw the ball extensively,” Fujitsu cornerback Al-Rilwan Adeyami said. “And we knew that that point was going to come if our offense had put up enough points.


“We thought that that was going to come sooner because of what our offense does. They did a good job of staying in the game, and that point didn’t come until the fourth quarter, and we capitalized on it. ”


Kato, who completed 27 of 50 passes for 300 yards, also had an interception on the final play of the first half, when the Deers showed they were willing to take the risks needed to keep pace with the Frontiers.


Cameron had scrambled 8 yards for a touchdownto put the Frontiers up 20-7 with 1:17 left in the half, and Lixil got the ball on its own 23. But two runs by Maruta gained 14 yards, then Kato connected with Nakagawa for 23 yards and Katsuya Nagakawa for 35 to put the ball on the Fujitsu 5 with :01 on the clock.


But instead of going for the chip-shot field goal, Lixil head coach Kiyoyuki Mori opted to throw the dice and go for seven points. The gamble failed when Yuki Ishii picked off a Kato pass in the end zone.


“You never know when you’re going to get into the red zone again,” Mori explained. “When there’s a chance to score a touchdown, we go for a touchdown.”


Mori was more concerned about Kato’s second interception, which came as the Deers still had time to rally in a two-possession game.


“The third one couldn’t be helped, but the second one I thought he could have been more patient in throwing the ball,” Mori said. “He got a little anxious, thinking he had to score quickly. But there was still time left, he could have been more patient.”


After Fujitsu’s opening drive of the game ended with Hidetetsu Nishimura missing a 26-yard field goal attempt, the Frontiers came right back and scored on their second, with Cameron and Akiyama hooking up an 8-yard touchdown pass.


Nishimura then kicked field goals of 20 and 48 yards, which were sandwiched around Fujitsu’s blocking of a 40-yard field goal attempt by Daisuke Aoki and an impressive goal-line stand by the Deers, in which they stopped the Frontiers on four shots at the 1-yard line.


Lixil’s lone points of the first half came on a big play, as Naoki Maeda went coast to coast—100 yards—with the kickoff following Nishimura’s second field goal.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League