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TOP > Game Report > New imports shine for Silver Star in opener

Game Report

New imports shine for Silver Star in opener


Asahi Beer defensive back Yuto Omori returns an interception 55 yards in the fourth quarter against Lixil.


























KAWASAKI (Aug. 30) — Aside from a few blips not unusual for a season-opener, the Asahi Beer Silver Star looked well on the road to returning to their former days of glory.


New American quarterback Mason Mills completed 41 of 48 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, and Yuto Omori returned an interception 55 yards for the winning score as the Silver Star upended the Lixil Deers 31-24 in their Central Division opener at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.


Mills also threw two interceptions and lost one of Asahi Beer’s two fumbles, but the defense came up with three picks of its own against Lixil’s national team QB Shohei Kato as the Silver Star avenged a 20-10 loss from last season to the defending Central champion Deers.


“Our offense was the way we wanted to play; we wanted to be fast, we wanted to be aggressive,” said Mills, a former star at San Diego who frustrated Lixil all game with his slippery scrambles.


“I think we got a little over-aggressive at times. We were getting the short plays, quick passes, running the ball. We were talking about stretching the field and we didn’t need to. That caused some problems for us.”


Fellow newcomer and wide receiver Roman Wilson was Mills’ main target, catching 10 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns — including a 51-yarder with his first reception of the game, and just the fifth play from scrimmage.


The featured matchup of the first round of games drew wide interest, with a number of players from other top-level teams turning out get a glimpse at the new American combo in action.


The two are the first-ever foreign players on the roster of the Silver Star, who were established in 1970. Once one of the league powerhouses, Asahi Beer last won the title in 1999 and has not appeared in the championship game since 2004.


The Silver Star entered the 2015 season coming off a fifth straight 3-2 season in divisional play, and posted only one win over those five years in the second stage. The team has made wholescale changes, bringing in new head coach Kiyoshi Oka as well as the two Americans, and gave a glimpse of the new direction with victories over the IBM BigBlue and Nojima Sagamihara Rise in spring exhibition games.


“We had the spring season, but it’s hard to tell with that because some of the players weren’t playing,” said Wilson, who played last season with the second-tier Iwatani Sidewinders of the West Division.


“Coming out here and doing well in our first game against Lixil, that was big for us….It gives us a lot of confidence and hopefully makes us work that much harder during practice.”


The Deers tied the game at 24-all early in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard field goal by Daisuke Aoki, who missed a 35-yarder at the end of the first half that could have sent the game into halftime with score knotted.


After the field goal, Shohei Aragaki returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards to the 43, Mills got to work on putting the Silver Star back ahead. He completed 8 of 8 passes which, along with one running play, moved the ball to the Lixil 8, where they faced a 4th-and-1.


The Silver Star opted to go for it, but Subaru Nakajima was stopped inches short, giving the Lixil the ball back with 5:24 to go.


Kato, who completed 21 of 38 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, launched a drive that reached the 40 when he connected with Naoki Maeda for 11 yards on 3rd-and-4. But on the next play, Omori came up with his second interception of the game, which he took all the way.


It was a redemption of sorts for Omori, who in last year’s game committed a mindless penalty away from the ball that kept a key Lixil drive going late in the game.


Lixil still had 2:20 left to make a comeback, and Kato engineered a drive that advanced to the Asahi Beer 36 when he converted on 3rd-and-3 with a 14-yard pass to Yasushi Nakagawa. But with :41 left on the clock, his luck ran out with his third interception of the game, grabbed at the 6-yard-line by Yoki Uemura.


“Defense bailed us out,” Mills said. “We put up points, but defense won the game today.”


After Wilson caught a perfect strike from Mills in full stride for the opening touchdown, Lixil replied with a nine-play, 56-yard drive capped by Shinichi Maekawa’s 1-yard blast into the end zone.


Mills threw his first interception on the next drive, with Ryuichi Hayashi making the pick, but came back with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Yasuhiro Hashizume in which he scrambled away from a would-be sack and found his receiver in the back of the end zone.


Yoshitaka Sakurai’s 33-yard field goal put the Silver Star up 17-7, but Lixil cut the lead on Kato’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Yasuhiro Miyamoto. That drive was started when Maekawa broke away on a 44-yard run.


In the third quarter, the two teams traded touchdowns as well as turnovers. Mills connected with Wilson for the second time, with the former Princeton star making an acrobatic leap over Koki Kato for a 7-yard touchdown reception, only for Lixil to reply with Katsuya Nagakawa’s diving catch in the end zone for a 25-yard TD to cut the Silver Star’s lead to 24-21.


In a four-play sequence after that, Wilson fumbled after a long gain after a catch, Omori came up with his first interception, and Mills threw his second interception, this time with Kenjiro Odate making the pick.


Lixil converted that last one into Aoki’s game-tying field goal, although Lixil barely missed a touchdown on the first play of the drive when Koken Shuno knocked down a Kato pass into the end zone.


“We got a turnover at a very key point of the game that propelled us to the win, so we’re very thankful for that,” Wilson said. “Obviously, going to practice we’re going to be working on ball security. But we’re happy with the outcome.”


Next up for Asahi Beer on Sept. 13 are the Tokyo Gas Creators, who were dealt a stunning 27-17 loss by the Bulls in the earlier game. Lixil takes on the Hurricanes the same day.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League