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TOP > Game Report > Japan earns rematch with U.S. for world title

Game Report

Japan earns rematch with U.S. for world title


Japan head coach Kiyoyuki Mori put much of the blame for the opening loss to the United States on his own shoulders. He and his players will get a chance to make amends in a rematch with much more at stake—the world championship.


Panasonic Impulse quarterback Tetsuo Takata threw for three touchdowns in the first half and Japan rolled to a 35-7 victory over Mexico on Wednesday to advance to the final of the IFAF World Championship in Canton, Ohio.


The two-time defending champion United States filled the other spot in the championship game as expected by crushing France 82-0 in the later game. United States beat Mexico 30-6 before defeating Japan 43-18 on Sunday. Japan played only one prior game because of Canada’s withdrawal from the tournament.


“In the first game, I can say I made a number of bad decisions and we lost to the United States,” Mori of the Lixil Deers was quoted as saying on the Japan federation website. “But we have a chance for a restart. We want to play up to our very limit.”


Against Mexico at Tom Benson Stadium, the Japanese squad did well to bounce back from the loss to the U.S. and focus on the task at hand. Japan had met and beaten Mexico in the finals of the first two World Championships, in 1999 and 2003, and knew it was a team it could not take lightly.


Takata led the charge by completing 17 of 24 passes for 223 yards, while IBM BigBlue wide receiver Takashi Kurihara caught two touchdown passes. IBM running back Ryo Takagi and Keio University’s Taku Lee each scored on short runs in the fourth quarter.


Mexico actually outgained Japan 328 to 309, but the Japanese defense stepped up to force five turnovers, which the offense turned into 21 points. Four of the turnovers were interceptions, all of which came on Mexico’s last four drives of the game. Obic Seagulls defensive back Takeshi Miyake had two picks.


“I had chances against the U.S. but I wasn’t able to grab the ball,” Miyake was quoted as saying. “So I made it a mission against Mexico to get an interception, and I’m glad I could achieve my objective.”


Japan’s only big mistake came on opening kickoff, which was fumbled by Obic’s Noriaki Kinoshita. But Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers offensive lineman Haruhisa Kurokawa was there to make the recovery.


“That was was big that an offensive lineman recovered the fumble on the kick return,” Mori said. “I am so proud of them. The offense executed the game plan with high efficiency.”


That was put on display in the first drive. On the third play, Takata connected with Kurihara on a 70-yard touchdown pass and Japan led 7-0 after just 78 seconds.


“It’s been awhile since I’ve run like that,” said Kurihara, who was nursing a knee injury prior to the tournament. “It gives me a good image heading into the next game. Personally, today’s game was a good one.”


After an exchange of punts, Mexico showed it was in for a fight by driving from its own 18 to the Japan 33, with 110-kilogram quarterback Roberto Vega Arroya completing two passes for 42 yards. But on 1st down, Arroya fumbled and Japan recovered.


Takata came out slinging, connecting with Fujitsu Frontiers running back Kosuke Kamiyama for 14 yards, Asahi Beer Silver Star wide receiver Yuta Hayashi for 12 and Lee for 14 yards to move to the Mexico 12. After a 2-yard run by Kamiyama, Takata threw his second touchdown pass to Kurihara for a 14-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first quarter.


That’s how it stayed until Japan’s final drive of the first half, when Takata engineered a five-play, 80-yard drive that included two completions for 53 yards to Kinoshita and ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Lixil wide receiver Naoki Maeda.


In the third quarter, Panasonic kicker Shintaro Saeki, who converted all five extra points, was wide right on a 31-yard field goal attempt. That gave the Mexicans a spark, and they marched 80 yards in 10 plays, with Arroya connecting with Raul Mateos San Roman on a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7 late in the third quarter.


On Mexico’s next drive, Miyake picked off an Arroya pass and returned it to the Japan 45. With the start of the fourth quarter, a 15-yard run by Lee, the lone collegian on the Japan squad, combined with a facemask penalty put the ball on the Mexico 6. After Lee gained 5 yards, Takagi went over on his second attempt from the 1.


Mexico looked like it might get back into the game, but had a 46-yard touchdown pass called back for holding, one of its 12 penalties that cost the North Americans 91 yards. To make matters worse, Lixil linebacker Kensuke Amaya snuffed the drive by intercepting an Arroya pass and, while Japan failed to turn it into points, it cost Mexico valuable time.


Miyake all but sealed the deal with his second interception of Arroya, which he returned to the Mexico 2. On the next play, Lee went over to make it 35-7. Panasonic’s Shoma Endo secured the fourth interception with :32 left, and Japan ran out the clock.


—Ken Marantz for the X.League