富士通フロンティアーズ LIXIL DEERS アサヒビールシルバースター 東京ガスクリエイターズ 警視庁イーグルス 富士ゼロックスミネルヴァAFC
オービックシーガルズ IBM BigBlue ノジマ相模原ライズ オール三菱ライオンズ 明治安田PentaOceanパイレーツ BULLSフットボールクラブ
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 > Kinoshita strikes twice with lightning returns to lift Seagulls over Deers

Game Report

Kinoshita strikes twice with lightning returns to lift Seagulls over Deers


Obic quarterback Takushiro Hata runs for a first down in the first quarter against Lixil.





NARASHINO, Chiba (Sept. 25)—Teams had been avoiding Noriaki Kinoshita for so long, it made it even more surprising to the Obic speedster that the Lixil Deers kicked the ball his way to start the second half.


Having already burned them with a kickoff return for a touchdown late in the second quarter, he never imagined the ball would come his way again.


But it did and Kinoshita made Lixil pay a second time, taking an almost identical route to the end zone to deal a blow from which the Deers would never recover and lift the Seagulls to a 27-13 win in a clash between unbeaten teams.


“I had caught two touchdown passes in a game, but never returned to two kickoffs for touchdowns,” Kinoshita said after the game before 2,578 fans packed into the Seagulls’ “home” field of Frontier Soccer Stadium in Narashino.


Kinoshita, who made a name for himself as a returner in NFL Europa, last returned a kick for a score in the semifinals of the 2014 playoffs against the Fujitsu Frontiers. “They don’t kick to me [recently],” he said. “This was the first time in a long time they kicked it my way.”


Of more concern Sunday to Kinoshita was that he personally outscored an Obic offense that constantly stalled in the red zone, and was limited to a 7-yard touchdown pass by Takushiro Hata and a pair of field goals by Takatoshi Hoshino despite compiling nearly 300 total yards and having almost an eight-minute advantage in time of possession.


“The thing that most concerns me is that the offense wasn’t able to score points,” he said. “I wanted to change the momentum, but in the end, scoring two touchdowns with kickoff returns showed nothing had changed with the offense.”


For Obic’s offensive coordinator Daniel Lynds, it was not that big an issue. “I think that is really a credit to Lixil,” he said. “If you look at any team they play, everybody struggles against them in the red zone.”


In the end, the lack of scoring by the offense was more than offset by a defense that constantly hounded Lixil quarterback Shohei Kato, sacking him twice and pressuring him into completing just 15 of 40 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.


“It’s been big for us this year from the first game, we were able to get a lot of pressure on [Nojima quarterback Devin] Gardner when we played the Rise,” Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson said, referring to the season-opening 14-13 win.


“Last game, we were doing a lot of good stuff up front. We just want to keep that going so whoever we play this year, the theme of the guys up front is to really get after the quarterback.”


The Seagulls, meanwhile, continued their strategy of musical quarterbacks, switching them even during the same drive depending on the situation. Jerry Neuheisel saw the lion’s share of action, completing 19 of 24 passes for 207 yards with an interception, while Hata was used mainly out of the wildcat formation. His touchdown pass was his lone completion of the game as he also rushed for a game-high 64 yards on 11 carries. Shun Sugawara threw an interception on his only pass of the afternoon.


Lynds said that Neuheisel injured his ribs at the end of the Rise game, and only returned to practice a week before the game. As such, that limited his preparation and necessitated the use of the other two QBs.


“We couldn’t give a whole package to [Neuheisel], we had to really limit what we were going to do,” Lynds said. “And we had to have another answer. No. 12 Hata ended up being that answer. Hata is a college Koshien Bowl-winning quarterback, this is not just some scrub that was just running wildcat. We didn’t show anything about what he could do. We held a lot back. But what we were doing with him worked, so we kind of stayed with that.”


Lynds main regret was that he didn’t make more aggressive calls later in the game, when the Seagulls were unable to pad a 27-6 lead and punted on their last three possessions.


“In some of the things at the end of the game, we were a little more conservative than we should have been,” he said. “They were putting eight in the box, nine in the box, to stop the run. We had some stuff open that, because of the game scenario, we didn’t go to.”


Lixil, which defeated Obic 21-16 in the Pearl Bowl tournament when Naoki Maeda returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with :38 left, took a 6-3 lead with 3:20 left in the first half on Daisuke Aoki’s second field goal.


But Kinoshita took the ensuing kickoff on the left side, angled across the field before turning the corner and sprinting down the sideline, going untouched into the end zone to complete a 95-yard return to give the Seagulls their first lead of the game.


Kato’s second interception of the game, which hit off Shinichi Maekawa and landed in the hands of rookie defensive back Yuta Shimozuru, gave Obic the ball back with 1:30 left at the 35. After moving to the 43, Neuheisel completed two passes to put the ball on the Lixil 7, where he had an incomplete pass.


Hata was then sent in and, taking a step forward as if to run, suddenly stopped, planted his feet and fired a pass to rookie wide receiver Shingo Maeda in the end zone with :19 left on the clock to put Obic up 17-6 going into halftime. Maeda had a game-high six receptions for 74 yards.


It was deja vu all over again to start the third quarter, as Kinoshita took the kickoff and followed the same path to the end zone, picking up a key block from B.J. Beatty along the way. The only difference was that he went 97 yards with this one.


“The blocking was great,” Kinoshita said. “Half of the Obic players would have been able to score if they were running at full speed. It wasn’t just me.”


Lixil’s Maeda nearly matched Kinoshita when he took the ensuing kickoff back 75 yards to the Obic 25. But adding to the Deers’ misery, Aoki’s 47-yard field goal attempt went wide right, and the Seagulls came back and got a 40-yard field goal from Hoshino to make it 27-6.


The Deers failed on a 4th-and-2 gamble on the next drive, but gained a spark when they blocked Hoshino’s 42-yard field goal attempt. But their longest sustained drive of the game, which went 65 yards in 12 plays, ended with Masashi Fujimoto picking off a Kato pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.


Kato completed just 6 of 20 passes in the fourth quarter, although he did manage a 14-yard touchdown pass to Yasushi Nakagawa with 3:36 left in the game.


“He wasn’t playing particularly badly,” Lixil head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said of Kato. “The defense is strong. When it’s obvious it will be a pass, it’s difficult to provide protection against [defensive ends] K.J. [Jackson] and B.J. [Beatty]. It was important to not let the game evolve that way. But we weren’t able to do it.”


Obic caused a buzz on its opening drive of the game with its creative use of its quarterbacks. Neuheisel, starting at the 35, completed four straight passes for 38 yards before having an incompletion. Hata was then sent in and gained 17 yards with three consecutive runs.


On 1st-and-goal at the 9, Neuheisel came back in and completed a 4-yard pass to Yuki Ikei. From there, Sugawara was inserted, along with Beatty, who lined up as a fullback. Beatty slipped through and went into the right flat, but Sugawara’s pass to him was cut off by Hidetoshi Yano, who returned the interception to the 25.


“I think that’s how it should be,” Neuheisel said of sharing the quarterbacking duties. “Everyone has a role to play, so everyone knows what their job is, and if we all execute our job, that will help us win the game.


“I don’t think it should always have to be one quarterback to take all of the reps. Hata came in and played super well today, and we’re going to probably lean on that package more down the season, so it’s a nice change up from what we normally use.”


While Lixil wasn’t able to capitalize on that turnover, it opened the scoring with Aoki’s 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter. After the two teams traded interceptions, Obic tied the game when Hoshino booted a 42-yard field goal.


“It was a total team victory,” Neuheisel said. “It’s a good win for us moving forward, and we have a lot more to improve upon and we can be a much better offense than we showed today.”


Obic will next face its first West Division foe when it takes on the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers on Oct. 10, the day after Lixil clashes with the IBM BigBlue. Both games will be at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League