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TOP > What’s New > Preview: Fujitsu, Panasonic set for historic clash in Osaka

What’s New

Preview: Fujitsu, Panasonic set for historic clash in Osaka


Sei Kyo, shown making a touchdown catch against All Mitsubishi on Sept. 22, is Fujitsu’s leading receiver with 13 catches this season.



It’s one of those games that leap out at you from the schedule like an Olympic long jumper.


While the long-awaited clash between the Fujitsu Frontiers and Panasonic Impulse on Saturday at Osaka’s Expo Flash Field might not have as much at stake as the last time they played, it marks the highlight of a revamped regular-season schedule that has lined up such big games on a weekly basis.


“Every single game we have to play at a high level, and I think that’s the most important thing,” Fujitsu running back Gino Gordon said last week. “There are no games off any more.”


Both teams enter the game with 3-0 records and, while a loss would not likely jeopardize the chances of making the playoffs, a victory would go a long way toward securing one of the top seeds in the postseason.


“They’re a really talented team and they won the championship last year,” Gordon says. “So I think it’s more that, if we want to be the best team in the league, we’re going to have to beat them sooner or later. That’s why it’s important.”


Says defensive end Trashaun Nixon: “I feel like we’re actually getting better each week, so this should be a big test to see how good we are.”


It was on Dec. 15 last year that the Impulse dethroned the Frontiers as X-League champions, rallying from an 11-point deficit with five minutes left to notch a 24-21 victory in the Japan X Bowl at Tokyo Dome. The Impulse capitalized on three interceptions off Colby Cameron, who had thrown just three in eight previous games.


That victory gave Panasonic a measure of revenge after Fujitsu ended the Impulse’s season in 2014 season with a 48-24 win in the second stage. Prior to Cameron’s arrival at Fujitsu, the Frontiers also beat Panasonic 28-13 in the 2013 semifinals and 24-10 in the 2011 second stage.


Saturday’s game marks the first time the two teams will face each other in a regular-season game, the result of scheduling “inter-divisional” games between the East and West that previously only occurred during the second stage or playoffs. On Oct. 10, the third remaining unbeaten team, the Obic Seagulls, will take on the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers in the other big game of Week 4 at Kawasaki.


While Fujitsu defensive back Al-Rilwan Adeyami prefers not to differentiate on the importance of games—”I used to have a coach who said, ‘Every game is special because we’re playing in it,’” he says—there are a number of factors that elevate the Impulse battle beyond the norm.


“It’s also special because half of our team is from Osaka, that’s what makes going down to Panasonic special” Adeyami says. “It’s special because they have the Americans on their team; it’s special because they’re coached well; it’s special because we’re the last two company teams left. It’s special for a lot of different reasons, it just so happens that we played in the last Japan X Bowl.”


For Gordon, the game holds additional significance because he was forced to miss the Japan X Bowl after suffering a serious leg injury in the semifinal victory over Obic, one that kept him out of the spring Pearl Bowl tournament.


“Noone likes losing that way,” Gordon says of the X Bowl loss. “But I think at the end of the day, we want to be able to play our best….I think that we have that confidence in us. As long as we’re playing our best, we’re going to win.”


This season, Gordon has rushed for 197 yards and one touchdown 41 carries in three games, although he had just four yards in a brief appearance of a 40-0 win over the All Mitsubishi Lions.


Cameron has not been as prolific as previous years, perhaps a sign of the raised level of competition, but has still completed 48 of 75 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions. Sei Kyo is the leading receiver with 13 catches, two for touchdowns, while Teruaki Clark Nakamura has 11 for three scores.


Panasonic opened its season against its top three West rivals and, after a bumpy 22-7 win over the Challengers in which Eita Saeki kicked five field goals, swept past the next two by a combined score of 84-0.  The Impulse made few changes from their championship team of last season, including having all six American players return.


Spearheading the Impulse offense are quarterback Kei Ohara and All X-League running back Benjamin Dupree who, like Gordon, had to skip the Japan X Bowl due to injury. Dupree has piled up 232 yards on 35 carries with one touchdown. They will run behind a line anchored by All X-League selections Edmond Davis at center and Scott Duffy at guard.


“It’s an offense that we dealt with very well last year,” Adeyami says. “But we don’t know how we’re going to deal with them this year. Every game has a new element to it. They’re going to game plan for us…Obviously they have Dupree back there, but they also have a good running scheme and they run the ball well. Now it’s our job to come in there and stop the run.”


For Cameron, the historic significance of traveling to Osaka for the game adds to allure, but hardly detracts from the goal.


“I just like that the X-League’s getting better and…Panasonic doesn’t just stay in the West until the playoffs,” he says. “It’s cool that we’re mixing the teams and I think it’s just good for the X-League as a whole.


“We want to win to win no matter what, so it would be good beating them there, here or anywhere.”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League