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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 > Semifinal preview: Frontiers, Seagulls clash earlier than expected

Game Report

Semifinal preview: Frontiers, Seagulls clash earlier than expected







There is something different about this season’s long-awaited match-up between the Fujitsu Frontiers and Obic Seagulls.


It’s not the Frontiers’ new quarterback, who has added major bang to an already explosive offense. And it’s not the fact that the Seagulls come into the game having already lost a game, something they haven’t done for four years.


“The only difference is that it’s two weeks earlier,” Fujitsu quarterback Colby Cameron said after a recent practice. “We knew we were going to get them….They’re probably the same way, they were probably expecting to play us in the championship. You just have to get your mindset ready a little quicker and I think our team has done a good job this week about that.”


Instead of meeting for the championship for the second year in a row, the unbeaten Frontiers and four-time defending champion Seagulls will clash in the first game of the semifinals on Sunday at Yokohama Stadium, with the winner earning a trip to the Japan X Bowl on Dec. 15.


In the second semifinal, the IBM BigBlue will take on the Lixil Deers, just two weeks after facing each other in the final game of the second stage. The BigBlue came out on top of that one, 38-10, the first defeat for a Lixil team that had handed Obic its only loss this season and first in the fall since 2009.


IBM, led by league passing leader Kevin Craft, is aiming to make the final for the first time, while two-time champion Lixil, in its first season under a new sponsor, last played for the title two years ago.


If ever the Frontiers are to break down the wall that has separated them from a championship, this seems to be the year. Led by first-year quarterback Cameron, Fujitsu stormed to the East Division title, then annihilated two second-stage opponents to emerge as the lone remaining undefeated team.


“I think our team believes in what we do, and we expect to win—both aspects, both offense and defense,” Cameron said. “Now we have to keep that streak alive because it’s win or go home.”


Fujitsu made it to the championship in four of the past seven years and five times overall, but lost all five to remain without a league title.  Last year, Obic struck early then held off a late Fujitsu rally for a 24-16 victory.


Fujitsu added Cameron, who starred at Louisiana Tech, in time for the spring Pearl Bowl tournament. The Frontiers, still were adjusting to the new offensive scheme, made it to the final, where they lost a heartbreaker to the Seagulls. Obic tied the game with a touchdown pass on the final play of regulation, then won 37-34 in two overtime tiebreakers.


Still, as good as the Frontiers were in the spring, they have raised their game even further in the fall as Cameron and his wide receivers, in particular Teruaki Clark Nakamura, became more in synch. They also boosted the defense with the addition of defensive end Austin Flynn. (He will have sit out the first half of the Obic game after being sanctioned by the league for an incident during against Panasonic.)


“They’re a different team than what they were in the Pearl Bowl,” Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson said in a telephone interview. “They’ve done a lot more things since then. We’re not hanging our hat on that Pearl Bowl game or that win at all.”


Although they came out with a loss, the Pearl Bowl confirmed for the Frontiers that they had nothing to fear from the Seagulls.


“I think the biggest thing that we understand is that they always bring their A game against us, and we have to make sure we do the same,” said Fujitsu running back Gino Gordon, who scored two touchdowns in the loss.


“That last Pearl Bowl game, we were one or two plays away from winning it. So that helps a little bit with our confidence and everyone knows we can play with these guys. Obviously there’s some parity there. They’re not invincible like a lot of people thought.”


That notion was reinforced by Obic’s stunning 23-17 loss to Lixil to decide the Central Division title after shutting out its first four opponents. Several Seagulls acknowledged that the team was looking too far ahead to Fujitsu and let their guard down against the Deers. It was a lesson earned the hard way.


“The loss is what it was, it was a wake-up call,” Jackson said. “But noone’s thinking about the loss, we’re definitely past that.”


Fujitsu will have another piece of the puzzle that was missing at the Pearl Bowl in cornerback Al-Rilwan Adeyami, a 2013 All-League selection who was injured in the spring. He will be a key part of the defense that will have to stop Obic’s clutch quarterback Shun Sugawara, a master of the last-minute drive, and slick receiving corps featuring 2013 league MVP Noriaki Kinoshita and Ryoma Hagiyama.


“I think they do a good job offensively, with their offensive line buying time for their quarterback, so we have to be very, very disciplined on our coverage this week,” Adeyami said. “Their receivers do a good job in zone of finding the open space. We have to do a better job of finding the receiver and finding the ball.”


On offense, Fujitsu will need to neutralize Obic’s Hawaiian bookends on the defensive line—B.J. Beatty, who was born in Hawaii, and Jackson, who went to college there. Beatty, who also lines up as a linebacker, had a particularly disruptive day in the 45-0 rout of the Elecom Kobe Finies to clinch the semifinal spot, forcing a fumble and returning another for a touchdown.


“Those two guys are probably one of the most destructive forces on any defense in the league right now,” Gordon said. “Can we protect, can we run the ball, can we pass? The basic questions, if we can answer those ‘yes’, then we’ll probably win the game.”


In the Frontiers’ second-stage finale, Cameron threw for four touchdowns and 445 yards as Fujitsu crushed the Panasonic Impulse 48-24. That included TD tosses of 63, 84 and 23 yards to Nakamura, all in the first half.


But Jackson said that stopping Cameron will not be enough, as Fujitsu also has a solid ground game in running backs Gordon, Keita Takanohashi and Kei Goto.


“We have to keep the pressure on not only him, but a lot of the weapons that they have over there,” he said. “It’s about execution. We have a game plan that hopefully will stop those guys, it’s just a matter of us sticking to it, believing in it and executing it.”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League