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TOP > Game Report > Preview: Dupree, Impulse set for 2nd-stage opener against Silver Star

Game Report

Preview: Dupree, Impulse set for 2nd-stage opener against Silver Star


Panasonic’s Ben Dupree led all rushers in divisional play with 587 yards on 70 carries, and scored at least one touchdown in all five games.




As a triple-option quarterback at The Citadel, Ben Dupree had more than his share of opportunities to run with the ball. That helped him make the transition to running back when he joined the Panasonic Impulse, and in turn helped the team regain its status as the premier power in the West Division.


The Impulse, powered by the addition of Dupree and several other American imports, will  be put to the test in the feature match-up when the Super 9 second stage kicks off on Saturday, when they face the Asahi Beer Silver Star — another team that has gone through a major renovation.


“It took a little while from playing quarterback in college to picking up on a little technique,” Dupree said of the switch to running back. “It took a good camp and after that, it started coming natural.”


Dupree finished as the league’s top rusher in divisional play, running for 587 yards on 70 carries and nine touchdowns as the Impulse went 5-0 and regained the West title they lost the previous year to the Elecom Kobe Finies. Dupree, who had at least one touchdown in all five games, also returned three punts for scores.


The Impulse broke with tradition to bring in the Americans after not only missing out on the division title last year, but failing to make the final stage of the playoffs.


Dupree, along with defensive back Emory Polley, defensive lineman Carlton Jones and offensive lineman Edmond Davis, became the first-ever players out of U.S. colleges to join the Impulse. Current defensive lineman David Motu and offensive lineman Scott Duffy were products of Japanese colleges.


The 1.75-meter, 84-kilogram Dupree said he was recruited by coach Tim Goins, who “called me out of nowhere.” He visited the team in April, liked what he saw, then joined in June. He said he was aware of the historical implications, and the expectations.


“The goal is to win the championship and they mentioned about the history,” he said. “So it was definitely a good tradition, but lately we’ve been coming up short. Now we want to exceed expectations.”


The Impulse steamrolled their way to the West title, shutting out four opponents and allowing just one touchdown, which came in the 14-7 win over the rival Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers in which Dupree scored both of Panasonic’s touchdowns.


“We’re getting it rolling at the right time. Everybody’s pretty much confident going into the second stage,” Dupree said.


Saturday’s game at Yokohama Stadium will mark the second straight year that Panasonic and Asahi Beer will clash in the Super 9 phase. But just as the Impulse are a different team that humiliated the Silver Star 65-3 in 2014, their opponent is virtually unrecognizable from the one that took the field that day.


The Silver Star, who finished third in the Central Division with a 4-1 record, feature one of the most explosive passing combinations in league history in quarterback Mason Mills and wide receiver Roman Wilson.


Mills, out of San Diego University, has completed 113 of 161 passes for 1,708 yards and 19 touchdowns, although he freewheeling style has also resulted in seven interceptions. Wilson, a Princeton grad who joined Asahi Beer after a season with the second-tier Sidewinders, has 38 receptions for 800 yards and 13 TDs, all tops in the league.


“We feel really good,” Mills said. “We’ve had three really good practices, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Our team’s watched a lot of film, and we’ve put together I think a pretty good game plan.”


The rejuvenated Silver Star showed they would be a force to be reckoned with this season by opening with a 31-24 victory over the Lixil Deers. But a 35-18 loss to IBM, and the BigBlue’s subsequent 33-25 loss to Lixil, left all three teams at 4-1 and the Silver Star third on point differential.


Mills said he is encouraged by the return from injury of several players, including wide receiver Yuta Hayashi.


“We beat Lixil, we very much were in the game against IBM before we kind of let everything go there in the middle of the fourth quarter,” Mills said. “We know what we can be. This will be the first game our whole offense is healthy together. It hasn’t been that way, even in the spring.”


Mills said the experience of facing an IBM pass rush led by defensive ends James Brooks and Demetrius Eaton should be good preparation for Panasonic, where he expects pressure from Motu and Jones.


“Playing against IBM earlier with their speed rush on the outside, that will really help us,” he said. “[Motu and Jones] try to make the quarterback get rid of the ball quick, but our offense has a lot of quick passing elements to it, so we’ll do our best to combat that.”


Much of Asahi Beer’s success can also be credited to the defense, which has come up with big stops all season. How it handles Dupree and the powerful Panasonic offense, led by veteran quarterback Tetsuo Takata, will hold the key to victory.


“It’s just that our offense needs to take what they give us, and our defense play their regular game, and I’m confident we’ll play well,” Mills said.


For Dupree, the formula for success is fairly basic: “Offensively, we have to take care of our responsibilities. As long as we sustain drives, convert on third down and protect the ball, we’ll be alright.”


In the other Super 9 second stage games, IBM takes on the Obic Seagulls on Saturday following the Panasonic-Asahi Beer game, while the defending champion and undefeated Fujitsu Frontiers travel to Osaka to face Elecom at Expo Flash Field.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League