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TOP > Game Report > Unbeatens Fujitsu, Obic progress to semifinals in similar style

Game Report

Unbeatens Fujitsu, Obic progress to semifinals in similar style


Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson stuffs Elecom quarterback Masato Kinoshita in the third quarter of the first quarterfinal at Yokohama Stadium.





YOKOHAMA (Nov. 12)—Just as they matched each other in the regular season by emerging undefeated, the Fujitsu Frontiers and Obic Seagulls powered through the quarterfinal round of the Japan X Bowl tournament with similar victories.


Obic exploded for four touchdowns in the second half and the defense limited Elecom Kobe to seven first downs and 148 total yards as the Seagulls blanked the Finies 35-0 in the opening game of the playoff tripleheader at Yokohama Stadium.


In the following game, Kazuki Takaguchi rushed for two touchdowns and the Fujitsu defense returned two of four interceptions for touchdowns in rolling to a 42-6 rout of the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers.


In the semifinals on Nov. 27, Fujitsu will take on the IBM BigBlue, who eliminated the Lixil Deers 37-16 in the nightcap. Obic will take on the winner of Sunday’s game between the Panasonic Impulse and Asahi Beer Silver Star.


Obic had finished up a 6-0 regular season with a lackluster 20-14 win over the Finies, but with more than the week that the Seagulls had had to prepare for that one, they were more than ready for Saturday’s clash with much more on the line.


“We just had more time to prepare this time around,” Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson said. “Last time we only had a week in between games, and we didn’t actually have a practice for them. This time we had some time to really take a look at film and put some stuff in to counter the things that they do defensively.”


Before a late morning crowd of 2,042, the Seagulls had a little trouble getting traction against a stiff Elecom defense and could only manage a pair of Takayoshi Hoshino field goals in the first half.


That would have been enough, given how dominating the Obic defense was, but the Seagulls offense started padding the lead from its first drive of the second half, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Asaki Mochizuki.


Takuya Iwamoto picked off a Keijiro Kasuya pass on the second play of Elecom’s ensuing drive and returned it to the Finies 9, and two plays later Jerry Neuheisel and Mochizuki connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0.


“They’re a little tough to run the ball on, so they had a good plan for us,” said Neuheisel, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 154 yards. ” They played a lot of two-man [coverage] in the beginning, and it was a little different than what we expected to see. But we figured out a way, and that’s what any offense does.


“It might not click right away, but you keep grinding, you keep putting first downs and eventually the dam breaks. It worked for us in the second half and showed on the scoreboard.”


In the fourth quarter, Obic put the game away when Shun Sugawara, taking advantage of good field position, threw touchdown passes on consecutive series to Yuki Ikei.


Sugawara’s 30-yard TD toss to Ikei came on the first play following Shota Matsunaga’s 50-yard punt return, and his 40-yarder just over a minute later came three plays after Yu Kitamura intercepted a Masato Kinoshita pass.


Elecom had basically only two chances to score all game. The first came after they recovered a fumbled punt on the Obic 25, but Kinoshita ended up getting sacked when the Finies went for it on 4th-and-10.


The last chance came on their final possession, when the Finies drove from their own 8 to the Obic 2. But they failed to penetrate the Seagulls goal line and lost the ball on downs with 1:01 left.


“They came out stronger,” Elecom offensive tackle Gavin Farr said of the Obic defense. “They learned from that first game and they schemed it very well. You have to give credit to their coaches and their players. Seemed like they knew what we were doing before we did.”


Like Obic, Fujitsu failed to move the ball early against Asahi Soft Drinks, but managed to get into gear earlier in their game than the Seagulls.


On a drive in which the Frontiers lost running back Gino Gordon to a bruised leg (he says he’ll be ready for the next game), the momentum turned when Teruaki Clark Nakamura hauled in a tipped pass from Colby Cameron for a 35-yard gain to the Challengers 3. On the next play, and the first of the second quarter, Takaguchi bulled over for the first score.


That opened the floodgates, as Cameron engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive on the Frontiers’ next possession which he capped with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Nakamura. During the drive, Nakamura caught four passes for 58 yards.


“The first time playing them, so you had to get a feel for them the first quarter or so,” said Cameron, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 169 yards. “You watch tape, but you don’t actually know their personnel. We finally got it figured out in the second quarter.”


On the first play of Asahi Soft Drinks’ ensuing drive, Fujitsu defensive back Shuichi Hida picked off a Yusuke Kano pass and took it untouched into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown return.


Hidetetsu Nishimura, who had two extra points blocked and lost another when the snap was flubbed, kicked a 25-yard field goal with a minute left in the second quarter to send the Frontiers into halftime with a 22-0 lead.


Like Obic, the Fujitsu defense, led by athletic defensive end Trashaun Nixon, put up a successful stand deep in its territory, denying the Challengers on three shots from the 7-yard line.


In the fourth quarter, Takaguchi scampered 53 yards for his second touchdown, and after defensive back Yuki Ishii’s second interception of the half, Keita Takanohashi added a 20-yard touchdown run.


Fujitsu’s final touchdown came with a bit of a twist. Two plays after Nixon dropped a sure interception at the line, linebacker Yuki Umishima got his hands on a Daichi Haraguchi pass. But during his return, he handed the ball off to Al-Rilwan Adeyami, who took the ball the rest of the way for a 60-yard touchdown return.


Haraguchi, who had taken over full time when Kano injured his knee as he was tackled while throwing the pass that would become Ishii’s first interception, led a consolation late drive to avoid a shutout. The Challengers marched 73 yard in 15 plays, capped by Haraguchi’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Kazuki Kawada with :49 left.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League