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TOP > What’s New > Defense saves Rise; fate sinks Impulse

What’s New

Defense saves Rise; fate sinks Impulse


When the dust cleared in a game that saw the lead traded like a hot stock, the Nojima Sagamihara Rise earned a playoff spot because their defense stepped up. The Panasonic Impulse lost one because their luck ran out.


Masato Kinoshita threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and the Rise held on to edge the Impulse 28-27 in a thrilling finale to the second stage Sunday at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium.


Nojima (5-2) stopped Panasonic on two fourth-down gambles late in the fourth quarter to secure the win and the top spot in Block A, earning a trip to the playoffs for the second straight year since rising to X1. The Rise were drawn to face the two-time defending champion Obic Seagulls in the semifinals on Dec. 2 at Yokohama Stadium.


West Division champion Panasonic would have clinched a berth in the final four with a win, but instead had to wait until after the game to learn its fate. The Impulse and Fujitsu Frontiers finished with identical 5-2 records and no difference in the tiebreaking criteria, so a drawing was held for the wild card spot. Panasonic drew the wrong envelope, bringing an early end to its season.


Nojima went ahead for good—with the sixth lead change of the game-with a bit of razzle-dazzle, as running back Eisuke Tomatsu threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Yuji Otaki to put the Rise up 28-24 early in the fourth quarter.


Panasonic, which returned two of four interceptions for touchdowns, closed the gap to one when Eita Saeki kicked his second 39-yard field goal of the game with just over nine minutes left.


But the Rise defense, which recorded four sacks, stopped Panasonic on 4th-and-4 at the Rise 42 with 3:42 left.


The Impulse had one more shot when they got the ball back with 1:36 remaining. Starting at their own 18, they drove to the Rise 38, helped by a pass interference penalty. But after three incomplete passes, the Impulse’s chances ended when Musashi Yoshida was stopped for a 5-yard reception with six seconds left.


“In the first quarter, we got off to a slow start and that dragged on, and our offense was too sluggish,” Nojima head coach Takayuki Sunaga said. “We don’t qualify yet to be the No. 1 team. We have to do better.”


Kinoshita completed 13 of 18 passes for 171 yards with three interceptions, and Takashi Miyako rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries. The Rise piled up 409 yards of offense-almost evenly split, with 208 passing and 201 on the ground-while the defense limited the Impulse to 229 yards.


“Our plan was to stop the running game and the quarterback scrambles to keep the score low, but they ran well and that hurt us,” Panasonic head coach Nobuyoshi Araki said.


Takashi Obara completed 16 of 28 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown for the Impulse, with Yoshida having eight catches for 65 yards.


Panasonic, in addition to having home advantage, had to be considered the favorite, in that the Impulse defeated the IBM Big Blue 34-17 in their Block A opener, a week before IBM decimated Nojima 48-17.


And Nojima’s prospects didn’t look good when Panasonic jumped out to a 10-0 lead helped by Rise miscues. In the first quarter, Saeki missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, but on the next play, all-league safety Ryohei Imanishi intercepted a Kinoshita pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.


Midway through the second quarter, a short Nojima punt from its own end zone gave Panasonic the ball at the Rise 39. The Impulse advanced as far as the 22, where Saeki kicked his first 39-yarder.


The Nojima offense finally got in gear on its next possession, as Kinoshita engineered an eight-play, 79-yard drive that he capped with an 18-yard touchdown run.


The Rise took the lead for the first time on their next series when Kinoshita connected with veteran Yoshinobu Imoto on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds left in the second quarter, making it 14-10 at halftime.


Panasonic regained the lead on its first possession of the second half, helped again by a Nojima mental error. On 1st-and-15 at the Rise 31, Masashi Hashimoto was stopped for a 2-yard gain, but a late hit penalty moved the ball to the 14. From there, Obara threw a touchdown pass to Shoei Hasegawa.


A little more than four minutes later, the Rise were back on top. Kinoshita gained 44 yards with three passes and the Rise drove from their own 24 to the Impulse 27. Facing 3-and-10, Kinoshita escaped from a would-be tackler and hit Masatoshi Sugihara for a touchdown and a 21-17 lead.


But that only lasted until Kei Obara picked off a Kinoshita pass and took it all the way for a 45-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the third quarter, putting the Impulse up 24-21.


On what proved to be the winning drive, Miyako gained 25 yards on four carries as the Rise moved from their own 25 to the Impulse 37. Tomatsu, taking a handoff from Kinoshita, then let fly and hit Otaki for the decisive score.

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