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TOP > What’s New > Frontiers regain league crown as defense grounds Seagulls in Japan X Bowl

What’s New

Frontiers regain league crown as defense grounds Seagulls in Japan X Bowl


Fujitsu defenders Trashaun Nixon (16) and Shuhei Takeuchi stop Obic quarterback Shun Sugawara in the second half. (photo by MI Planning)


Fujitsu quarterback Colby Cameron, who was named the game’s MVP, scrambles for yardage.(photo by MI Planning)


Fujitsu running back Gino Gordon bulls into the end zone for the lone touchdown of the game in the third quarter. (photo by MI Planning)




TOKYO (Dec. 12)—In a classic defensive struggle, it was the big red wall put up by the Fujitsu Frontiers that proved the more impenetrable.


The Fujitsu defense held the Obic Seagulls to 175 total yards, forced two turnovers and put on a goal-line stand for the ages, and quarterback Colby Cameron guided the offense to enough points to lift the Frontiers to a 16-3 victory in the Japan X Bowl at Tokyo Dome.


Hidetetsu Nishimura kicked three first-half field goals—all of 29 yards or less—and Gino Gordon scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter as the Frontiers, making their fourth straight trip to the championship game, regained the title they won for the first time in 2014.


“As an offensive player, you want to score as many points as possible,” said Gordon, who rushed for 86 hard-earned yards on 27 carries. “But it was great to see our defense play light’s out, as they usually have. I was just glad that 16 points was enough this time. It was good that we were able to hold onto the football. They had two turnovers, which is huge in this type of game.”


As X-League champions, the Frontiers earned a trip back to Tokyo Dome on Jan. 3 for the Rice Bowl, where they will face the collegiate champion for the national title. Waseda University and Kwansei Gakuin University will clash in the Koshien Bowl on Sunday for the college title.


Before the crowd of 25,455, Cameron completed 11 of 20 passes for 116 yards, but did as much damage with his bold scrambles, gaining 56 yards on 10 carries. His 26-yard scamper—the longest offensive play of the game—on a 3rd-and-20 set up Nishimura’s second field goal, a 28-yarder midway through the second quarter.


“Colby made plays when he had to,” said Obic defensive end B.J. Beatty, who was the main character in one of the more bizarre plays in Japan X Bowl history, which led to the Seagulls’ lone score. “The guy’s an athlete, so I can’t take that away from him. In the second half we were trying to keep him from having chances to run around like that. At the end of the day, Gino came in and got his yards here and there.”


For Cameron, who was named the game’s MVP, the victory in the clash of unbeaten teams wiped away the demons of last year’s final, when his third interception of the game helped the Panasonic Impulse overcome an 11-point deficit with five minutes left and beat the Frontiers 24-21.


“This season I had a bad taste from the game last year that we didn’t finish,” Cameron said. “The three interceptions, I still think about that game.”


Cameron was rock solid as the Frontiers had no turnovers in a contest between two highly physical teams that was punctuated by a stream of injury timeouts. When the Frontiers, up by 13 with eight minutes to go, were trying to kill the clock, they stuck to a conservative diet of runs. Even though they had consecutive 3-and-outs, each drive took two minutes off the clock.


“That’s why this year was more of game management at the end, but also our defense stepped up which was huge,” Cameron said. “What was big, our defense got stops which made them take timeouts, and I think that’s what helped us in the long run. And then we able to run the clock out.”


If Obic was going to turn the tide of the game, it would have come on its opening drive of the second half. With veteran Shun Sugawara taking over for starter Jerry Neuheisel at quarterback, the Seagulls managed to scrape their way down to a 1st-and-goal at the Fujitsu 1-yard line.


But defensive end/linebacker Trashaun Nixon, the unsung hero of a Fujitsu defense that recorded three sacks, almost single-handedly kept the Seagulls out of the end zone. He tackled burly running back Asaki Mochizuki for a one-yard loss on first down, then combined with cornerback Al Rilwan Adeyami to stop fleet-footed wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita, who had lined up in the halfback position of an I-formation and took a pitch around right end.


On third down, Nixon looped around to again nail Mochizuki for a 1-yard loss, and the Seagulls had to settle for Takatoshi Hoshino’s 19-yard field goal.


“Trashaun and Ade made an outstanding open-field tackle on probably the best open-field runner in the league,” Obic offensive coordinator Dan Lynds said. “When you see that, you have to take your hat off to them.


“Then on third down, it was an excellent job again, Trashaun penetrated. Actually scheme-wise, they ran a little defensive line loop, which you don’t see a lot down there, that close to the goal-line. They did a nice job getting him free by design.”


Nixon said he was ready for the challenge of the goal-line stand. “I guess it was just the mentality,” he said. “I seen it was on the 1-yard line, I kind of knew it was going to be a run. It’s kind of ‘mano y mano,’ me vs you.”


“It changes the whole dynamic of the game,” Cameron said. “Because football is all about momentum. Even though they got a field goal, the momentum’s not there. That’s why we brought Trashaun here, he made the plays and has done a great job.”


Obic would never have even had that chance had it not been for an odd twist of fate that kept the drive going. The Seagulls had been forced to punt early, and after a bad snap, Takeshi Nagao’s scrambling kick was blocked by Yuki Umishima—but right into the hands of Obic’s Beatty, one of the up-blockers for the punter.


“I’ve ran a fake punt before, but I never caught a ricochet and ran it,” Beatty said.


Before any could realize what was going on, Beatty took off down the left sideline, turning the blocked punt into a 21-yard gain down to the Fujitsu 37. It was just the kind of play that can swing the momentum.


“I thought it [would turn the game],” Beatty said. “I was excited, the sideline got excited. I didn’t realize how far I ran past the first down [marker]. I kind of shocked myself. It was just a freak thing. I knew the snap was bad, so I was just trying to drive my guy out. It just shot right at me. I know we were covering and sending everybody to the right, so my instinct was like, run to the left. And I just took off.”


Said Cameron: “I literally was like, are we cursed? But to get a perfect bounce like that is uncommon. But we just kept fighting.”


With a pass interference penalty helping the drive, Mochizuki’s 11-yard run gave the Seagulls a first down on the 1.


Mochizuki finished with 46 yards on 12 carries (Obic had just 4 yards rushing overall) as the Frontiers conceded his quick bursts up the middle to focus on maintaining a pass rush.


“If we shut down the passing game, their running game isn’t going to kill us,” Adeyami said.


Lynds conceded it was the right move. “They decided they’ll give that up in return for a pass rush. And it worked out when their offense scored early, and the way the game script played out, it was a good decision by them.”


Cameron led Fujitsu to a score on the opening drive of the game, although the Frontiers could have had more than Nishimura’s 24-yard field goal. A 10-yard touchdown pass from Cameron to Teruaki Clark Nakamura was nullified by a personal foul penalty, and later on a third-down throw into the end zone, two Fujitsu receivers collided with each other and the ball fell incomplete.


Obic’s initial drive included the lowlight of a snap that Neuheisel wasn’t aware was coming, resulting in a 12-yard loss.


“The snap count, we’ve been working on it all week, and it was just miscommunication between the quarterback and center,” said Neuheisel, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 48 yards.


Neuheisel, like Lynds a new addition to the offense, said but for a few plays, the complexion of the game could have been different.


“I don’t think they necessarily stopped us, but they’re very athletic,” Neuheisel said. “We had a couple of misfortunes happen in the first half. We had a snap go hay-wire, we had a fumble and we had a penalty to start a drive.


“We only had the ball four times, they did a good job of keeping us off the field. Give their defense all the credit in the world, they had a great plan for us, but I look forward to playing them again next year, because I know it won’t be the same story.”


After Nishimura kicked his second field goal to put Fujitsu up 6-0, the Frontiers forced the first turnover of the game when Tataeru Nakanishi lost the ball after an initial hit by Adeyami, and defensive back Yuiichiro Sakaguchi recovered at the Obic 49.


A defensive tripping penalty on the first play moved the ball up the 32, and the Frontiers made their way to the 10. After losing three yards on three runs, Nishimura booted a 29-yard field goal with :39 left on the clock to send Fujitsu into halftime with a 9-0 lead.


After Obic cut the lead to six with Hoshino’s field goal to start the second half, Cameron responded by engineering a 71-yard, 13-play drive that Gordon capped by going off tackle from the 4, bulling his way through two defenders the final two yards to get into the end zone. Obic had a costly penalty on this drive, too, as linebacker Takuya Iwamoto was flagged for a late hit on Cameron after he went out of bounds for a 5-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 from the Obic 21.


“You know when you’re playing against Obic, you’re going to have earn every yard that you get,” said Gordon, the 2014 Japan X Bowl MVP who missed last year’s game due to a leg injury. “We knew that coming into the game, and I’m just glad we were able to pull out a victory. Colby was a really good leader for the offense, he made sure that we were in the right position.”


The victory was assured when defensive back Shota Yoshimoto intercepted a Sugawara pass near the goal-line with 1:35 left. Sugawara, who had led Obic to an unprecedented four straight titles from 2010 to 2013 (the last one a victory over Fujitsu), completed 11 of 24 passes for 123 yards.


EXTRA POINTS….The game was the lowest scoring one since the Asahi Beer Silver Star defeated the Sunstar Finies 13-0 in 1993, and Fujitsu’s points were the least for a winning team since the Matsushita Denko Impulse defeated the Silver Star 15-6 in 2004….The Seagulls, who hold the record for most titles with eight, were making their 10th appearance in the 30-year history of the championship game. Fujitsu won its second title in seven appearances….Veteran Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson, who has been named to the All X-League team a record 10 times, remains undecided on whether to end his career after 12 seasons. “I don’t know,” he said. “I hate to end it like this, but at the same time…”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League