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TOP > What’s New > Seagulls strike fast, hard in rout of Challengers

What’s New

Seagulls strike fast, hard in rout of Challengers


OSAKA (Nov. 17) — After failing to score in the first quarter and putting up a total of seven points by halftime in their last two games, Obic Seagulls head coach Makoto Ohashi prodded his team to get out of the blocks quicker. The players responded with a start that would make Usain Bolt proud.


Shun Sugawara threw all three of his touchdown passes in a 31-point first half and Obic stormed to a 44-17 victory over the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium to wrap the second stage with an unbeaten record.


“We wanted to pull away in the first half and get over this image we’ve gotten as a slow starter,” Ohashi said.


Sugawara completed 12 of 17 passes for 195 yards before yielding the floor in the second half to Manabu Tatsumura, who added a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, while the defense did its part by holding the Challengers scoreless through three quarters.


“Sugawara was in particularly good form,” Ohashi said, “enough so that I wondered if it was right to take him out. But Tatsumura provided relief in the second half. I think both QBs played well.”


Noriaki Kinoshita caught eight passes for 112 yards and was on the receiving end of two of Sugawara’s scoring strikes, while Takuya Furutani started the rout with a 19-yard touchdown run. Yosuke Kaneoya was successful on all three of his field goal attempts.


The Central Division champion Seagulls (7-0), who last year became the first team in league history to win a third straight championship, will continue their quest for No. 4 in the final stage, where they were drawn to face the Kajima Deers on Dec. 1 at Yokohama Stadium.


It marked the third straight year that Obic had defeated West Division runner-up Asahi Soft Drinks in the second stage, although it was by far the biggest margin of victory. In 2011, the Seagulls needed 14 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 20-13 win, then followed that with a 29-12 victory last year.


The Challengers (4-3), coming off a shocking 34-10 loss to the Asahi Beer Silver Star in their second-stage opener, needed a win over Obic to keep alive its hopes of reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2003.


But they failed to penetrate an Obic defense until the game was already out of reach. Kevin Jackson and B.J. Beatty each had one of the Seagulls’ four sacks, while Jackson had four tackles-for-loss of 21 yards, and Beatty broke up two passes.


“It was a total defeat,” Asahi Soft Drinks head coach Hiroyuki Yabe said.  “There’s a big difference in the receiving units. They controlled our defensive line and we couldn’t respond at all.”


Obic, which was hit for 111 penalties, got the rout started when it marched 70 yards in 10 plays on its opening drive, with Furutani going over from the 19. The next drive covered 77 yards in five plays, capped when the speedy Kinoshita slipped behind the secondary and hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Sugawara.


Kinoshita caught his second touchdown pass, a 22-yarder, early in the second quarter, then had a 32-yard punt return that set up a 37-yard field goal by Kaneoya to make it 24-0 with 3:18 left in the half.


But Obic wasn’t finished yet. After a 7-yard run by Furutani, Sugawara completed three straight passes for 39 yards, the final one a 4-yard TD toss to Yuki Ikei with :48 remaining on the clock. The Challengers moved into Obic territory, but a desperate pass by Tomotsuna Inoue was intercepted by Masashi Fujimoto with five seconds left.


Tatsumura, who went 11 for 16 for 99 yards and one touchdown with one interception,  took over in the second half and led Obic to consecutive 30-yard field goals by Kaneoya, the first set up by a 44-yard punt return by Ikei to the Challengers 21.  That made it 37-0, which is how it stood after three quarters


Starting late in the third quarter and mainly fueled by the running of rookie quarterback Masayoshi Hayashi, Asahi Soft Drinks finally put together enough of a drive to get on the scoreboard with Shinji Kageyama’s 50-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.


Rookie defensive back Ryota Ikeda then intercepted a Tatsumura pass and Hayashi, who completed 9 of 23 passes for 79 yards and ran for a team-high 31 yards on 11 carries, engineered a drive that took the Challengers from their own 31 to the Obic 9.


Facing 3rd-and-goal from the 3, Hayashi was stopped for no gain. But the Challengers went for it on fourth down, and the gamble paid off with Hayashi connecting on a touchdown pass to Kotaro Okano to make it 37-10 with 6:10 left.


The teams ended the game by trading touchdowns, with Tatsumura throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Akimitsu Mori and Inoue replying with a 4-yard scoring pass to Tatsuya Kureta.


Inoue finished 8 of 17 for 81 yards, while Kureta and rookie Satoru Mori had five catches each.


“This season, we had a new team with about 40 percent turnover,” Yabe said. “I got a sense of how difficult it is to continue the DNA with such a team. We will have to address that for next season.”








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