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TOP > What’s New > Asahi Beer wins overtime thriller over corporate cousin

What’s New

Asahi Beer wins overtime thriller over corporate cousin


After the corporate cousins had left things up to the kickers, who had mixed but incredibly balanced results, Asahi Beer Silver Star finally ended the showdown with the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers with a well-executed running play that had also worked earlier in the game.


Shingo Hamada ran 14 yards for a touchdown in the fifth tiebreaker of overtime and Yoki Uemura sealed the deal with an interception to give Asahi Beer a 26-20 victory in their second-stage Block C game on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo’s Oi No. 2 Stadium.


The game had ended tied 14-14 after regulation, and both teams missed two field goals and made two over the first four tiebreakers. With the win, Asahi Beer (4-3) became the first third-place team to win a game in the second stage since the current format was adopted in 2009, a feat matched later in the day by IBM.


“We could come out with a win, that’s a good end,” Asahi Beer head coach Yorihisa Sekiguchi said. “But we missed a lot this game, again. I told the players this is the start [for next year]. We have good players, so we could [have won] some other games.”


Asahi Beer had already been knocked out of contention for a playoff spot when they lost 69-7 last week to the unbeaten two-time defending champion Obic Seagulls. Asahi Soft Drinks (4-2) needs to beat Obic in the stage’s final round of games next Sunday to keep its playoff hopes alive. Obic has clinched first place in the block and a playoff berth, regardless of the outcome.


Playing only for pride, Asahi Beer got a 5-yard touchdown run from Naoki Harikawa in the second quarter and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hayato Arima to Shohei Aragaki in the fourth quarter.


Asahi Soft Drinks, which defeated the Panasonic Impulse in the West Division finale but finished second on point differential, opened the scoring when Daichi Haraguchi scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter. After surrendering the lead, the Challengers tied it up early in the fourth quarter on Hiroyuki Anzai’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Tatsuya Kureta.


The Challengers had one last chance—albeit a long shot—to win the game in regulation, but Takashi Yamaoka came up short on a 56-yard field goal attempt on the final play to set up just the second overtime in second-stage history. Last year, Nojima topped Kajima 27-20 after being tied in regulation.


Saturday’s overtime, in which each team starts a drive from the opponent’s 25, became a case of monkey-see, monkey-do, as neither team could advance the ball very far over the first four rounds, which all ended with the same outcomes. First, Asahi Beer’s Yoshitaka Sakurai missed a 40-yard field goal, which Yamaoka mimicked from 43 yards out.


In the second tiebreaker, the Challengers replaced Yamaoka with Shinji Kageyama, and it paid off with a 42-yard field goal. But Sakurai had no problem booting a 29-yarder to keep the game going. Sakurai was back on the field in the third round to kick a 33-yard field goal, which came after a Minoru Tono pass was very nearly intercepted in the end zone. Kageyama followed suit with a succesful kick from 35 yards.


After Kageyama missed from 37 yards out to start the fourth round, Sakurai missed his chance for the winner, sending a 39-yard attempt wide left.


“Pressure,” said a sympathetic Sekiguchi of Sakurai. “He’s still a human being, he’s not a machine. We had a chance a couple of times, but it’s OK. I saw many games in overtime, it could happen.”


In the fifth round, Tono completed two passes to get to the 14. On the next play, Hamada took the ball on a trap play and straight up the middle untouched into the end zone. It was the same play that Harikawa scored on in the second quarter.


“We changed to Tono and started throwing passes,” Sekiguchi said. “The defensive line started coming up in straight lines, so we thought the trap would work.”


Did he think he would get a touchdown on the play? “No, no,” the coach said with a laugh. “We were talking about the next play to get the touchdown.”


On the Challengers’ final turn, the Silver Star defense stopped them twice for eight yards worth of losses. Facing a long third down, Anzai’s errant pass was picked off by Uemura to end the game after 3 hours 13 minutes.


Asahi Beer had played one overtime game previously this season, losing 21-14 to Nojima in their season-opener after the two teams were tied 7-7 in regulation time.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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