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TOP > What’s New > Final Stage Preview: Seagulls have lofty goal of toppling favored Frontiers

What’s New

Final Stage Preview: Seagulls have lofty goal of toppling favored Frontiers


In their East Division game on Oct. 17, Fujitsu’s Al-Rilwan Adeyami had two of four interceptions against Obic, including this one that he returned for a touchdown.




Before this season, no team that finished third in divisional play with two losses ever made it out of the second stage. But then again, the Obic Seagulls are no typical team, and will be looking to beat the odds again and continue all the way to the Japan X Bowl.


Standing in the Seagulls’ way, however, are the undefeated defending champion Fujitsu Frontiers, who they face on Sunday at Yokohama Stadium in the final stage for a place in the championship game.


How much does it matter that the Frontiers whipped the Seagulls 41-7 in their East Division clash last month? Not much, say both sides.


“They are a different team,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita says. “But we are different, too. So, it’s not the same game. Especially mentally, they are perfectly different now. So we have to have good preparation and practice quite well.”


In the other final stage game, the undefeated West Division champion Panasonic Impulse will take on the Nojima Sagahimara Rise at Osaka’s Kincho Stadium. That game also will be a rematch, as the Impulse blanked the Rise 36-0 on Nov. 15 in their second-stage finale.


The Seagulls, who won an unprecedented four straight league championships from 2010 to 2013 before losing in last year’s semifinals to Fujitsu, seemed to have overcome the problems that plagued them during divisional play, when they were dealt a first-ever loss by the Rise and had their first 3-2 season since 1997.


“Part of it was getting back to things that we do well,” veteran Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson says. “We were trying to incorporate a lot of new stuff, but in doing that, we kind of lost track of the things that we do really well. Getting back to that, as well as getting better at the new stuff. It’s looking a lot better than when the season first started.”


The game finds the Seagulls in the rare position as underdog. Asked if he felt that took some of the pressure off, Jackson replied: “You can look at it both ways. I don’t think we’re relaxed, being that the last time we played these guys we lost really bad. So I think instead of being relaxed, the guys are kind of anxious to get out there and prove that we’re not that bad of a team.


“It is definitely weird to be the underdog, but it’s good to be underdog sometimes. It kind of puts things in perspective and forces you to continue to challenge yourself.”


With their backs to the wall in the second stage, Obic got past the IBM BigBlue 34-26, then rolled to a 52-9 rout of the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers. After that, all the Seagulls could do was wait for the results of the final week of games, and ironically, it was the Frontiers who paved the way for Obic to slip into the final four by beating the Lixil Deers.


In the loss to the Frontiers on Oct. 17  at Fujitsu Kawasaki Stadium, the Seagulls had five turnovers, including two interceptions by cornerback Al-Rilwan Adeyami, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Obic forced one turnover, which it turned into its lone score of the game, then saw its offense completely shut down.


“Looking back on it now, going into that game, we were all over the place—mentally, the things we were trying to do, things we were thinking about. It’s like we had no idea about a whole lot of stuff,” Jackson says.


“Honestly, there’s not that big of a difference, I think, between us and them; definitely not a 41-7 difference. If we play our cards right and we trust the things that we do, it will be a lot different game.”


Fujitsu running back Gino Gordon said he’s expecting to see a different Obic than the one the Frontiers pounded.


“I’m expecting to see the team that won four championships,” says Gordon, who rushed for a touchdown in both of Fujitsu’s second-stage wins. “They’re going to be a really, really good team. I talked to some of the guys and I saw some of their interviews, saying they’re going back to basics, going back to what they did before. I actually look forward to it. It’s going to be a good challenge.”


While Fujitsu has recently made more use of its running game, Jackson says Obic’s main challenge will be containing Fujitsu’s high-profile quarterback Colby Cameron, who threw for three touchdowns in the win over the Seagulls.


“They put up much better rushing numbers against the other teams in the league compared to when they play us,” Jackson says. “To be honest, I don’t think they’re going to win the game running against us. It’s going to come down to Colby making plays with his arm. Obviously we want to stop the run, but I think we’ll do a better job of that. We have to figure out how not to get beat in the air.”


Cameron was rock solid in the two second-stage wins, completing a combined 53 of 74 passes for 602 yards with five touchdowns and one inteception. He also ran for a score. Even with star receiver Teruaki Clark Nakamura out due to injury, he has found reliable receivers in Junpei Yoshimoto, Sei Kyo, Takeshi Akiyama and Yuji Mizuno.


Obic will likely turn the offense over to veteran quarterback Shun Sugawara, who took a large majority of snaps in the second stage, completing 34 of 52 passes for 409 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.


As a third-place team, Obic played its second-stage games in the first two weeks, giving it an extra week off heading into the final stage. Will that be an advantage?


“We’d like to think it helped us,” Jackson says. “But then again, I guess we have to wait until Sunday to see if it helped or not.”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League







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