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TOP > What’s New > Japan grinds out 38-0 win over Germany

What’s New

Japan grinds out 38-0 win over Germany


KAWASAKI (April 12)—After catching a pass in the right flat at the 3-yard line, Japan’s Ryoma Hagiyama was immediately wrapped up by cornerback Enrico Martini, enough so that the German drew a facemask penalty on the play. But the Obic Seagulls’ wide receiver didn’t go down, shrugging off the tackle and stepping into the end zone.

In a similar way Japan shrugged off a size disadvantage to show that, outside of North America, it still dominates the American football world by grinding out a 38-0 victory over Germany on Saturday at newly renovated Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium.

“We chose a squad of young players who will part of our future and we wanted to look at,” head coach Kiyoyuki Mori of the Lixil Deers said. “I think the players did a good job.”

Lixil quarterback Shohei Kato threw two touchdown passes to Hagiyama and Deers teammate Naoki Maeda also had two TD receptions in the “German-Japan Bowl II,” which was serving as preparation for both teams for upcoming games leading up to next year’s IFAF World Championship in Sweden.

“I thought it would be more of a back-and-forth game,” said Maeda, who caught seven passes for 80 yards and was named the game’s MVP. “The defense really played hard and kept stopping them, and that made it easier on the offense. But for me, I wanted it to be the offense that sets the tone. I wanted us to control the ball more and have longer possessions.”

Japan will next face the Philippines on April 26 at Tokyo’s Amino Vital Stadium in the Asian qualifier for the World Championship. Germany will defend its title at the European Championship in six weeks.

Before the crowd of 1,889, Japan led just 14-0 at halftime, but forced three of its four turnovers on consecutive possessions starting late in the third quarter, when Germany ran out of gas and which Japan turned into 17 points. The defense held Germany to 135 total yards and recorded two sacks.

“They have a very fast defense,” German running back Danny Washington said. “They play very disciplined. Every mistake we made, they took advantage of. The first half, we did OK, we played with them. In the second half, we made too many mistakes and fell too far behind to establish our offense.”

Japan relied mainly on its passing game, with Kato combining with Obic’s Shun Sugawara and the Fujitsu Frontiers’ Keiya Hiramoto to complete 25 of 42 passes for 314 yards and all five touchdowns. Kato accounted for 72 of his 143 yards on a fourth-quarter touchdown bomb to Hagiyama.

Sugawara got the call to start and engineered a nine-play, 79-yard drive that he capped with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Maeda. Fujitsu’s Keita Takanohashi had an 18-yard run and Obic’s Takuto Hara followed with a 14-yarder to get the ball inside the Germany 10.

Germany came back with a prolonged drive of its own, moving from its own 29 to the Japan 33. But the drive stalled when three passes resulted in a 3-yard loss and two incompletions and the Germans were forced to punt. The visitors would never get as close to the Japan goalline.

With the two defenses dominating, Japan would not strike again until late in the second quarter, when a short punt gave the hosts the ball on the Germany 37. Five plays later, Kato and Hagiyama connected on their first touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 2:18 left in the half.

An interception by Obic linebacker Masayoshi Tsukada, the Japan team captain, gave Japan the ball back on the 47 with 1:14 left. Helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty, Japan got into field goal range, but came away empty-handed when a pass on 4th-and-1 at the Germany 25 fell incomplete with :10 left. It was the second fourth-down gamble that failed for Japan.

“In the beginning, we were trying things and it didn’t go so well,” Mori said. “In critical situations, we failed on two fourth-down plays and three passes into the end zone. That’s something we’ll have to address for next year.

“On the positive side, both the offensive and defensive lines quickly made the adjustments they needed to and that set us up for a strong second half.”

The Japanese finally stretched their lead late in the third quarter after a Washington fumble, settling for a 32-yard field goal by the Panasonic Impulse’s Eita Saeki on the final play of the quarter to make it 17-0.

On the first play of Japan’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Kato uncorked a bomb to Hagiyama, who hauled in the pass, deked around a defender and raced into the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown. Hagiyama had just two catches, both for touchdowns.

As if that didn’t seal the deal, Japan converted interceptions by Obic’s Masashi Fujimoto and Panasonic’s Atsushi Tsuji on Germany’s next two possessions into touchdown passes by Hiramoto. Panasonic wide receiver Shoma Endo took a screen pass 15 yards for the first score, and Maeda caught a 5-yard pass for the second with 6:09 left in the game.

Washington, born and raised in Germany as the son of an American solder, said illness and injury had limited the number of players available on Germany’s offensive line, and that took a toll later in the game.

“The first half, I thought we had a shot, we were still in the game,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t have any guys to switch. They had fresh legs, and we couldn’t hold up anymore.”

Another factor was that the Germans, with receivers measuring from 182 to 205 centimeters, did not take advantage of their size advantage against the much shorter Japanese secondary.

“Before the game, we thought they were throw to higher points,” said defensive coordinator Makoto Ohashi, Obic’s head coach. “But the quarterbacks’ accuracy was not so consistent. If they throw higher balls, it would have been hard for us.”

It was the second time the two national teams have clashed in an exhibition game. In the first German-Japan Bowl in 2010, Japan won 24-14 in Dusseldorf. In the ensuing years, four-time X-League champion Obic played twice in Germany, beating the Dresden Monarchs 29-17 in 2012 and routing the Dusseldorf Panther 34-3 last year.

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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