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TOP > Game Report > Slingin’ Sugawara, Seagulls bounce back to rout Rise

Game Report

Slingin’ Sugawara, Seagulls bounce back to rout Rise



Obic quarterback Shun Sugawara scores the Seagulls’ first touchdown with an 18-yard run in the first quarter.


























KAWASAKI (Nov. 9)—Having to watch the Obic Seagulls’ first loss in the fall in over four years was agony for injured quarterback Shun Sugawara. Much like how the Nojima Sagamihara Rise must have felt when he made up for it in his return to the field.


Sugawara threw for five touchdowns to five different receivers and ran for another as the Seagulls bounced back by crushing the Rise 44-21 in their second-stage clash at Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium, keeping their hopes for a fifth straight league title very much alive.


“There was pressure, as it was a game that we couldn’t afford to lose,” said Sugawara, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 324 yards before heading to the bench in the third quarter. “As always, we want to score as many points as we can and we just focused on that.”


Yuki Ikei caught six passes for 136 yards and a touchdown as the Seagulls struck fast, hard and often to put the game out of reach by halftime, taking a 37-0 lead into the break and cruising to a fourth straight victory in four seasons over the Rise.


The Seagulls were playing after a rare three-week layoff, brought about when they went into the second stage as the runner-up in the Central Division. The Lixil Deers won the division with a stunning 23-17 victory over the Seagulls on Oct. 19, Obic’s first loss in the fall season since 2009.


“A lot of the older guys, we remember what it’s like to lose and to go home early,” Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson said. “And I don’t think a lot of the younger guys kind of felt that. So it’s good to be in this situation for them.”


It also means that Obic has only one week to prepare for its final Super 9 game against the West champion Elecom Kobe Finies on Sunday. But the extra week gave Sugawara time to heal from his unspecified injury and the team to mentally rebound from the loss to Lixil.


“I felt bad for not playing,” Sugawara said. “It was tough to take. My injury healed and I got back to the point where I could play again. I think our team really grew over these three weeks.”


The two games not only confirmed the importance of Sugawara to the success of the Seagulls, but also that rookie quarterback Takushiro Hata is not yet at the stage of development to fill his cleats.


Hata played in place of Sugawara against Lixil and had a key fumble late in the game that clinched the loss. Against Nojima, he completed just 6 of 15 passes for 63 yards with two interceptions as the Rise, while not threatening to pull off a miracle comeback, outscored the Seagulls 21-7 in the second half.


The Rise, who finished third in the East Division but knocked off the Finies in their second-stage opener to keep their slim hopes of advancing alive, relied on scrambling quarterback Masato Kinoshita, who had a hand or feet in all three of the Rise’s touchdowns.


Kinoshita attempted 59 passes, completing 20 for 199 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, and also ran 11 times for 99 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run. Rookie backup Yuichiro Araki had a forgettable performance, failing to complete any of his eight passes.


“We know Kinoshita is a good quarterback, especially his mobility is so dangerous,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said. “We watched the film and had meetings on how to stop his mobility.”


Before the crowd of 1,131, the Seagulls struck first on their second drive of the game, with Sugawara running 18 yards for the score. On the next possession, Sugawara completed three passes for 56 yards and Asaki Mochizuki ripped off a 17-yard run to put the ball on the Rise 7, where Sugawara connected with Akimitsu Mori on a slant into the end zone. A bad snap on the point-after left the score at 13-0.


Early in the second quarter, the Seagulls took possession on their own 40. On first down, a flea flicker left Ikei wide open downfield and Sugawara threw a perfect rainbow for a 60-yard score.


Obic padded the lead on Sugawara’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Noriaki Kinoshita, who finished with five receptions for 75 yards, before defensive back Kento Tojo’s interception of a Kinoshita pass set up a 30-yard field goal by Yosuke Kaneoya.


Obic still wasn’t finished, as Sugawara converted twice on third down before throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ryoma Hagiyama, who bulled his way into the end zone past two defenders for the final five yards.


“When we’re clicking, that’s usually how it goes,” Jackson said of the fast start. “The X-Bowl last year was like that. We just come out firing. That’s what we try to do, it doesn’t always happen like that, but it just felt good.


“It gave us a pretty sizeable lead, and I think going into the half, barring a miracle, there’s no way we’re going to lose the game.”


Nojima finally got on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter, when Kinoshita’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Yuji Otaki capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive and came after a 13-yard run by Kinoshita on 4th-and-3 at the 16. The scoring pass actually tipped off the hands of linebacker Yu Kitamura—who would later get his interception—and into the hands of Otaki.


“We knew it would be every yard gained will be tough,” Nojima tackle Derek Faavi said on the Obic defense. “They got KJ, B.J. [Beatty], and it’s not just that, but as a unit, they’re flying to the ball, they’re pressuring us. That’s just Obic football, I guess.”


On Obic’s next series, Sugawara threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kentaro Mori that wrapped up his day and concluded the Seagulls’ scoring.


In the fourth quarter, Kinoshita scored on a 29-yard run and threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Takahide Dejima, the latter on a 4th down with 2:13 left in the game.


“Every player, every coach, every staff member knew that this was a big game,” Ohashi said. “Sometimes this kind of game puts so much pressure on the team. But today, everybody changed the pressure to good motivation. That’s why we could dash at the start. Everyone just concentrated on what they were doing and executing the plays.”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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