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TOP > Game Report > Panasonic pummels 1st Kanto foe as Dupree, defensive line shine

Game Report

Panasonic pummels 1st Kanto foe as Dupree, defensive line shine


Panasonic running back Ben Dupree scores on an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.




YOKOHAMA (Oct. 31)—Having reconquered the West Division, the Panasonic Impulse marched eastward and, behind newcomer Ben Dupree’s dazzling runs and a swarming defensive line, declared themselves a contender for a first league title since 2008.


Dupree ran for three touchdowns and the defense sacked slippery Asahi Beer quarterback Mason Mills three times and forced him to throw three interceptions as the Impulse pounded out a 38-14 win over the Silver Star in their opening Super 9 second-stage game at Yokohama Stadium.


“We came out and got the win, that’s all I expected,” said Dupree, who gained 140 yards on 18 carries. “As the offense, we put up 38 points, and as the defense we only allowed 14, so I’m happy, I can go home on the train and sleep good tonight.”


Veteran Tetsuo Takata threw first-half touchdown passes to Shohei Kishimoto and Tatsuya Tonka for the Impulse, who improved to 6-0 after capturing their sixth West Division title in seven years after missing out last year.


Asahi Beer, which finished third in the Central Division with a 4-1 record, scored twice as many points as the Impulse had allowed in five divisional games, four of which ended in shutout. But led by the one-two punch of defensive lineman Carlton Jones and David Motu, the Silver Star were held in check as the Impulse pulled away in the second quarter.


The game hinged on one key mistake that Mills made while under intense pressure. After the Impulse went ahead 21-14 on an 8-yard run by Dupree with 3:15 left in the second quarter, the Silver Star, who had scored on their previous drive, were poised to possibly tie the game before halftime.


But on 2nd-and-9 at their own 18, Mills was flushed out of the pocket on a play designed for a shovel pass. As he sprinted toward the sideline, he made an ill-advised attempt to flip the ball to an unaware running back, and the ball sailed right into the hands of defensive lineman Wataru Takeda.


“It was a shovel pass and I ended up sprinting out,” Mills said. “Two guys came to me, my running back was behind them. He thought I was going to run, I was trying to flip it to him. It was a stupid play, I should have just thrown it out of bounds.”


Said Motu, who as a Nihon University grad does not count in the quota allowing for two foreign players on each side of the line, “They were driving, and we were tired, too. I don’t know why he threw it.”


That gave the Impulse the ball on the Asahi Beer 23 with 2:24 left, and they needed just four plays to pad their lead to 28-14 on Takata’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Tonka.


The Impulse defense turned up the heat and forced the Silver Star to punt on their first four series of the second half. Mills was then intercepted twice and stopped on a fourth-down gamble as desperation and frustration began to take hold.


“It’s not like we were turning the ball over. We’d get a first down, two plays and we’d stall,” Mills said. “We struggled on 3rd and short, 4th and short, which would have extended drives. They were better than us today overall.”


Mills, who completed 24 of 46 passes for 249 yards, threw two touchdown passes in the first half before the Impulse defense made the adjustments needed to limit the league’s top passer this season.


“We had a variety of looks, and our defensive line really got after it today, we had a lot of sacks,” said defensive back Emory Polley, another of the Impulse’s new imports. “You get pressure on the quarterback, it’s going to make it really tough for him.”


On the other side of the line, the 1.75-meter Dupree dazzled the crowd of 1,944 with his quick cutbacks and deceptive power. A quarterback who ran a triple option offense at The Citadel, he scored the lone touchdown of the second half by breaking away on a 41-yard run—dragging defensive back Sho Takaya the final 10 yards.


“I had to change how I run, I had to change my focus to running like a running back,” said Dupree, who leads the league with 729 rushing yards. “As a quarterback, you’re supposed to run hard anyway, but as a quarterback you really have to preserve your body. But as a running back, you have to make sure you deliver that force.”


Eita Saeki capped the scoring for the Impulse with a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. He had missed a 41-yard attempt in the first quarter.


Both teams scored on their opening drives of the game. The Impulse went 70 yards in 12 plays, capped by Takata’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Kishimoto, while the Silver Star responded with Mills’ 37-yard TD toss to Kenta Osawa.


A big play by an Impulse defensive lineman led to their next score. With the Silver Star lined up to punt on their own 37—following a sack by Motu for an 11-yard loss—Makoto Kajiwara burst through the center of the line and knocked a blocker back so far that Yoshitaka Sakurai’s punt hit off his backside and sailed sideways.


That gave Panasonic the ball on the Silver Star 25, and Dupree went off left tackle from the 1 on the final play of the first quarter to put the Impulse up 14-7.


After a 23-yard punt return by Roman Wilson gave Asahi Beer the ball on the Panasonic 48, the Silver Star moved down to the 1, where Mills connected with Wilson for the tying score. The big play of the drive was an 18-yard run by Takuya Yanagisawa on 3rd-and-10 at the 35.


“Their defensive line is extremely good, and you have a couple of really big guys, really athletic guys,” said Wilson, who caught 12 passes for 137 yards. “So having to block them is difficult. Obviously you can see how well coached they are. They spend a lot of time game-planning and they executed better than we did.”


Asahi Beer, whose fate is no longer in its own hands, will face the East Division runner-up Nojima Sagamihara Rise on Sunday at Kawasaki Stadium needing nothing less than a victory to keep alive its hopes of making the final stage.


“We just have to try to figure things out over the next week,” Mills said. “I’m confident that we can bounce back and play well and move forward.”


—Ken Marantz for the X-League








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