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TOP > Game Report > Seagulls pour it on to deny Finies, sail into semifinals

Game Report

Seagulls pour it on to deny Finies, sail into semifinals


Obic defensive end B.J. Beatty picks up a fumble by Elecom quarterback Inoke Funaki before returning it for a 22-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.






























OSAKA (Nov. 16)—It took awhile for the engine to get warmed up, but eventually the Obic Seagulls cruised to victory over the Elecom Kobe Finies and kept alive their hopes for a fifth straight league title.


Takuto Hara rushed for a pair of 2-yard touchdowns and Shun Sugawara threw for two scores as the Seagulls turned a 14-point halftime lead into a 45-0 rout in their second-stage finale at Osaka’s Kincho Stadium.


Defensive end B.J. Beatty was a one-man wrecking crew for the Seagulls, forcing a fumble, returning another for a touchdown and batting down two passes to lead an Obic defense that forced four turnovers and held the Finies to 137 total yards and eight first downs. It was Obic’s fifth shutout in seven games.


The Seagulls, who lost to the Lixil Deers in the game to decide the Central Division title, will take a 6-1 record into their semifinal clash against the unbeaten Fujitsu Frontiers on Nov. 30 at Yokohama Stadium. The game will be a rematch of last year’s Japan X Bowl, which Obic won 23-17.


The Finies knocked off both the Panasonic Impulse and Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers to captured their first-ever West Division crown with a 5-0 record, but were completely overwhelmed in their two second-stage games against Kanto opponents. In their first Super 9 game, they lost 41-14 to the Nojima Sagamihara Rise.


Before a crowd of 2,000, the Seagulls had their first two drives knocked off course by offensive pass interference penalties, the first of which negated a touchdown pass.


But a short punt and an 18-yard return gave them the ball on the Finies 26 on their third possession. Two Sugawara passes moved the ball to the 2, where Hara scored his first touchdown for the lone points of the first quarter.


Elecom finally got a first down on a successful fake punt, but could not sustain the drive. On the next series, the Seagulls defense forced its first turnover, as Beatty pried the ball loose from quarterback Inoke Funaki and Shota Tomita recovered at the Finies 24.


After Asaki Mochizuki ran for 4 yards, Sugawara connected with Kentaro Mori in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0. That’s how the first half ended, as a late Finies drive petered out at the Seagulls 36.


Any hopes that Elecom could turn the momentum its way were all but lost on the second play from scrimmage of the third quarter. Takahiro Mitsui forced a second fumble from Funaki, and Beatty scooped up the ball and raced 22 yards for a touchdown, fending off one would-be tackler along the way.


“That was the turning point that pointed us toward victory,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said.


Said Elecom head coach Ryota Kano: “That fumble was everything.”


Sugawara, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 216 yards with no interceptions, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Noriaki Kinoshita on a post pattern with 4:52 left in the third quarter to make it 28-0. Kinoshita finished with seven catches for 92 yards.


Sugawara then engineered an 8-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with Hara scoring again from the 2 on the first play of the fourth quarter.


Rookie Takushiro Hata, taking over for Sugawara, scored on a 17-yard run, and Yosuke Kaneoya completed the scoring with a 32-yard field goal.


While relieved to get the victory, Ohashi expressed concern over Obic’s 11 penalties for 110 yards.


“So many penalties made it hard for the offense to string together a drive, but the defense stepped up and stopped Elecom, so it was good to get the shutout,” Ohashi said.


Under pressure all game, Funaki completed 6 of 12 passes for 43 yards and one interception. Backup Kenjiro Kasuya was 6 of 21 for 55 yards.


“Using what happened against Nojima and Obic, we know what we have to work on for next season,” Kano said. “The biggest difference was losing the one-on-one battles, more than through the game plan. We have to practice hard to become more competitive.”

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