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TOP > What’s New > Craft’s aerial barrage lifts IBM to 1st-ever win over shell-shocked Kajima

What’s New

Craft’s aerial barrage lifts IBM to 1st-ever win over shell-shocked Kajima


KAWASAKI (Nov. 10) — With nothing on the line but a point to be made, IBM quarterback Kevin Craft figured he would just rear back and let fly. When the aerial barrage was over, IBM had not only beaten Kajima for the first time, but piled up the most points ever scored on the Deers and put a dent in their playoff hopes.


Craft completed 41 of 54 passes for an eye-popping 534 yards and five touchdowns as the BigBlue wrapped up their second-stage campaign by pulling away to a 56-35 victory on Sunday at Kawasaki Stadium.


“It was our last game, we had nothing to lose, might as well throw what we have at them, just go out and let it fly,” said Craft, who also deked and scrambled his way to a team-high 65 yards on 12 carries. He also had one interception.


John Stanton hauled in 11 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and defensive end Takefumi Morohoshi lived out a lineman’s dream by blocking a pass, catching it himself and returning it for a touchdown as IBM (4-3) bounced back from last week’s 55-24 rout at the hands of the Panasonic Impulse by posting one of its own.


IBM fell behind three times in the first half before taking a 31-27 into halftime on Craft’s 18-yard touchdown pass to speedster Takashi Kurihara with nine seconds left in the second quarter. The BigBlue never trailed after that, although the Deers closed to within three in the third quarter before IBM scored the final 18 points of the game.


The win avenged a 32-26 loss to the Deers in last spring’s Pearl Bowl. The two teams had also met for nine straight years from 2002 to 2010 in division play in the fall season—with Kajima winning every time.


The BigBlue had a virtual repeat of the end to last season, when they also finished third in their division, lost their opening game to West Division champion Panasonic, then came back with a high-scoring win over a second-place team. Last year they closed with a 48-17  victory over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise, which, until Sunday, ranked as the team’s greatest triumph.


Yasuhiro Maruta ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for Kajima (4-2), which needs to find a way to knock off unbeaten Panasonic in the second-stage finale on Nov. 17 to have any chance of reaching the final stage. Even with a win, its fate will depend on the outcome of other games.


The 55 points were the most ever given up by the Deers since the team was established in 1989, eclipsing the 47 that Obic scored in a 47-31 win in the semifinals of the 2012 Pearl Bowl tournament. Obic also scored the most previous points against the Deers in a fall-season game with 45-20 win in the 2011 semifinals.


“Our defense was outplayed by their defense, and our offense, of course, was completely beaten by theirs,” Kajima head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “We prepared for the game, but we didn’t get pressure from our pass rush. When we put pressure on [Craft] and had their receivers covered, he got away from us.”


For IBM, the historic win produced mixed feelings: satisfaction over a first-ever victory over Kajima, but also misgivings over a season in which the BigBlue came close to breaking into the elite. IBM’s two losses in the Central Division, to Obic and Nojima, were by a combined four points.


“Obviously the season is disappointing,”  head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “I think our players did well this game. I think they showed what we can do. Not only the offense, but the defense, too. We held them in the clutch….All in all, our potential is really high.”


Under Yamada, a former star linebacker on an Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers team that won two league titles in the 1990s, IBM has made vast improvements but remains on the cusp of joining the elite teams like Obic and Kajima that consistently win championships.


“We’re improving and improving and it’s hard to get over that hump,” said Craft, a former UCLA starter who also serves as offensive coordinator. “Until you can win those [big] games consistently, it doesn’t matter. Because the teams that can — like these guys [Kajima], like Fujitsu, like Seagulls — those are teams that are moving on.


“We haven’t tasted what it feels like to be one of those teams yet, and I know some of the guys who are hungry for it. And we got some guys who understand what it takes to get there, and we got some guys who have never been taught or are still trying to figure it out. It’s still an upward battle for us at this point.”


With the exception of the drive that ended with Takahiro Sakai intercepting an overthrown Craft pass in the second quarter, the BigBlue put points on the scoreboard in all 10 possessions before running out the final 2:43 of the game (which they ended by taking a knee on the Kajima 6-yard line).


IBM’s Genki Odakura made two of three field goals attempted, from 42 and 43 yards, and Yasuo Harada scored on a 5-yard run. Michihiro Ogawa also caught a touchdown pass.


IBM started the second half with Craft capping a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Stanton — an identical play to his 6-yard TD reception in the first quarter — before Kajima cut the lead to 38-35 when Maruta bulled in from the 1 and Takaya Yamashiro connected with Naoki Maeda for a two-point conversion.


Craft and Stanton hooked up for their third touchdown, this time from the 7 to cap a 90-yard drive, to make it a 10-point lead with 2:41 left in the third quarter. After the defense forced Kajima to punt for just the second time, IBM opened the fourth period with Odakura’s second field goal to make it 48-35.


With Kajima still within two scores, the IBM defense, which had recorded two sacks, stepped up when it was most needed.


“Once it was a 10-point lead, I thought if we could get it to three possessions, we would be safe,” Yamada said.


Kajima drove to the IBM 24, but on 4th-and-1, Shohei Kato’s pass fell incomplete. After Odakura missed a 36-yard field goal attempt, Kajima got the ball back with 4:15 left. Not much time, but enough for a comeback.


But the nail in the coffin was hammered in when Morohoshi grabbed a Yamashiro pass he himself had batted into the air and rambled 34 yards for a touchdown.


“It just landed in my hands,” said Morohoshi, who said he had scored a touchdown last season when he picked up a blocked punt.


A game in which the two teams combined for 1,006 yards of offense started with a bang, as Kajima’s Maeda returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.


But like the storm that was forecast for game time but never came, what was expected to come after never did.


— Ken Marantz for the X-League







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