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TOP > What’s New > Deers rally to win rematch, advance to final

What’s New

Deers rally to win rematch, advance to final

’12.12.04

Shohei Kato started the comeback with a pair of touchdown passes before leaving the game with a knee injury in the third quarter. Takuya Yamashiro and a swarming defense finished the job.

 

The Kajima Deers advanced to the Japan X Bowl by beating the Fujitsu Frontiers for the second time in two weeks, rallying for a 24-14 win in the semifinals Sunday at Yokohama Stadium.

 

Kato completed 21 of 28 passes for 173 yards before his early exit and the defense stopped Fujitsu on two fourth-down gambles, allowed just 158 total yards (78 passing, 80 rushing) and had three sacks as the Deers rallied from a 14-3 first-quarter deficit.

 

“With the 15-minute quarters, there was still plenty of time,” Kajima head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “They scored off good field position. But our offense was moving the ball, so there was no reason to worry.  They weren’t outplaying us in any aspect, so if we made adjustments, we could turn the game our way.  At that point, I didn’t know if we could win or not, but I knew it would be a battle.”

 

The victory put Kajima into the Japan X Bowl for the first time since winning a second title in 2009.  In the championship game on Dec. 17 at Tokyo Dome, the Deers will face the two-time defending champion Obic Seagulls in a battle of unbeaten teams. Obic defeated Kajima 45-20 in last year’s semifinals.

 

Whether or not Kato will recover in time for the game is a question mark.  The 24-year-old, whose leg was crushed from the side by a rolling Fujitsu lineman, left the stadium on crutches with his knee bandaged.

 

Yamashiro proved himself as a capable replacement. A former starter who had seen ample action this season, Yamashiro showed great poise in coming off the bench in a hurry and helping ensure that Kajima would repeat its 27-15 victory over Fujitsu from the second-stage finale on Nov. 19 on the same field.

 

“I’m prepared for that situation and I just did what I always do,” said Yamashiro, who completed 9  of 10 passes for 92 yards with an interception, and added the final touchdown with a 1-yard flip to Yoshinari Iwakura in the fourth quarter. “I don’t think of myself as a substitute. If something happens then it would be my turn. That gives me motivation.”

 

Mori had confidence that Yamashiro would get the job done, knowing the former Waseda University star would want to make up for a disappointing day in the first game against Fujitsu, in which his only pass was intercepted.

 

“Yamashiro has been looking good, even in practice, and using him didn’t change the game plan or the plays we would call,” Mori said. “To him, it was a chance to clear his name after the last game. He did really well.”

 

Two long kickoff returns by Fujitsu’s Yusuke Kamiyama set up a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes by Motoki Yoshida, who was limited to just 71 yards passing despite completing 12 of 19 attempts. With the Kajima secondary taking away the long pass, Yoshida’s longest completion went for just 11 yards.

 

“We didn’t want to get burned with a big play,” Mori said. “It’s difficult to completely shut down an opponent. We just wanted to stay aggressive and come up with something big ourselves.”

 

Kajima’s defense allowed Fujitsu to cross midfield only once from the second quarter on—and stopped the Frontiers on a fourth-down gamble during their lone incursion into Deers territory.

 

Fujitsu’s bid for a comeback of its own was thwarted by two key plays by the Kajima defense. Down by 10 and starting a drive with 9:33 left, the Frontiers faced 3rd-and-3 at the 48 when blitzing defensive back Takahiro Sakai recorded Kajima’s third sack of the day, nailing Yoshida for a 9-yard loss. On the second play of the next drive, Takashi Makiuchi picked off a Yoshida pass at the Fujitsu 26, and the Deers ran out the clock.

 

Fujitsu, which scored all of its points in the last game off field goals, didn’t take long to find the end zone  in the rematch. After Kamiyama took the opening kickoff  46 yards to the Kajima 45, the Frontiers went the distance in seven plays, capped by Motoki’s 3-yard toss to Teruaki Clark Nakamura.

 

Kajima cut the lead when Daisuke Aoki kicked a 39-yard field goal, only to see Kamiyama return the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the Kajima 49. The Frontiers advanced to the 27, but going for it on 4th-and-3, Yusuke Shinshi was stopped for a 2-yard loss by Shohei Suzuki, who also had two sacks.

 

But  Fujitsu got another chance when Kato fumbled and Motoyuki Hirai recovered at the 23. Helped by a personal foul that negated a sack and moved the ball to the 8, Fujitsu took three plays to score, this time with Yoshida hooking up with Sei Kyo on a 5-yard pass for a 14-3 lead with 36 seconds left in the first period.

 

After failing on a 4th-down gamble themselves on the ensuing drive, the Deers came back on their next one.  With Fujitsu punting out of its own end zone, Kajima started in good field position at the Frontiers 48. Kato proceeded to complete four of five passes, the final one a 15-yard touchdown pass to Yasushi Nakagawa over the middle with 3:38 left in the half.

 

The Deers took the lead for the first time on the opening drive of the second half. Kato went 5-for-5 for 36 yards in an 11-play, 62-yard march, capped with a 6-yard TD toss to Naoki Maeda.

 

On the fourth play of Kajima’s next drive, fate knocked Kato out of the game and thrust Yamashiro into the spotlight. On his first passing attempt, Yamashiro completed an 8-yarder to Yuto Fujimori on third down that came up inches shy of a first down.

 

After the defense stopped Fujitsu on a second 4th-down try, this one at the Deers 32, Yamashiro was at him most impressive in engineering an 8-play, 68-yard drive that spanned into the fourth quarter.  Yamashiro started things off with a 22-yard completion to Maeda and, while barely escaping a sack, scrambled 30 yards to the Fujitsu 10. Going for it on 4th-and-goal at the 1, Yamashiro faked a handoff up the middle and hit a wide-open Iwakura in the right flat for the touchdown.

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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