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TOP > What’s New > Ex-Deer Yamashiro leads Dentsu into X1 for first time; Bulls avoid drop

What’s New

Ex-Deer Yamashiro leads Dentsu into X1 for first time; Bulls avoid drop


Dentsu quarterback Takuya Yamashiro throws a pass in the third quarter against the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept. (photo by MI Planning)



Ex-Deer Yamashiro leads Dentsu into X1 for first time; Bulls avoid drop


By Ken Marantz


KAWASAKI (Dec. 17)—Three years after leaving the Lixil Deers, quarterback Takuya Yamashiro will be back in the X-League first division next season—this time with a team that had never been there before.


Yamashiro threw two touchdown passes and Takaaki Yamamoto kicked the decisive field goal in the first tiebreaker as the Dentsu Caterpillars defeated the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept. Eagles 17-14 in overtime at Fujitsu Kawasaki Stadium to earn promotion to X1 in 2018.


“It’s the same,” Yamashiro said of comparing the victory with those in big games for the Deers. “My feeling is that I want to win along with my teammates. I’ve really become close with these guys, and feel it’s really my team.”


Meanwhile, the Bulls Football Club, the only team to finish winless in X1 this season, managed to keep its place in the top division by holding off X2′s Bullseyes Tokyo 31-20 in the other promotion/relegation playoff.


In the West Division playoff played on Nov. 25 in Osaka, the Sidewinders avenged a loss to Club Hawkeye at the same stage last year by beating them 17-3 to earn promotion back to X1.


Dentsu’s victory reversed a playoff loss to the Eagles in 2015–also in a tiebreaker–to cap a quest to reach the top tier that started from its first appearance in X2 in 2001.


That would not have seemed possible without the addition of Yamashiro, who will turn 31 on Dec. 25. On the day his alma mater, Nihon University, won its first collegiate title in 27 years, he made history with Dentsu.


Yamashiro completed 20 of 34 passes for 249 yards, with his second touchdown pass a 9-yarder to Ryota Shimotan that tied the score at 14-14 with 5:39 left in the game. He also had one interception.


In the tiebreaker, each team’s drive ended at the opponent’s 9-yard line. But after Yamamoto converted his 26-yard field goal, a bad snap left Eagles counterpart Ryota Miyahara flubbing his attempt from the same distance, giving Dentsu the win.


“It was a kick I’ve never experienced before,” Yamamoto said of the pressure. “I lost myself in the moment. Anyway, I just thought to stay calm and kick as usual.”


Just before the tiebreaker, the Caterpillars avoided losing in the rarest of ways—with a “sayonara” safety. The Eagles’ final drive in regulation fizzled out, but Yutaro Nagasu’s punt was downed at the Dentsu 1 with :48 left. With their backs to the end zone, Ryo Tanabe took the Caterpillars out of danger with a seven-yard run, and Dentsu ran out the clock.


The Eagles, who finished 2-4 in the regular season, opened the scoring in the first quarter on Toshiaki Kaneko’s 12-yard touchdown run, but Yamashiro responded with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Toru Iwata to make it 7-7, which is how it stood through halftime.


The Eagles went ahead again in the third quarter after Yuki Shiobara intercepted a Yamashiro pass at the 42. They took 10 plays to go the 58 yards, with Yuki Miyazawa bulling in from the 1 for the touchdown.


Now that Dentsu has achieved its goal of promotion to X1, Yamashiro said the next objective is “to finish in the top eight. I hate losing.”


Yamashiro joined the Deers, then known as Kajima, in 2009. Over five seasons, he made a name for himself with his accuracy. In regular-season games, he completed 188 of 262 passes (71.7%) for 2,484 yards, and had 26 touchdowns and just four interceptions.


With Shohei Kato establishing himself as the team’s top quarterback, Yamashiro became a coach in 2014, the year Kajima dropped its sponsorship of the team and Lixil took over. He left the next year after being lured to restart his career at second-division Dentsu.


“I was asked to join by my teammates,” Yamamoto said. “There were several members who I played with on the [national] Under-19 team, they asked me to play again. I thought, I’ll give it a shot.”


In the second game on Sunday,  Keita Fujiwara completed 24 of 29 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for a score, as the Bulls built up a 31-7 early in the fourth quarter before surviving a late Bullseyes’ surge.


“We had to win. We didn’t want to take a step back, we want to progress,” Bulls linebacker Andrew Gonzales said. “We’re just missing a few pieces and I feel we can be competing with the other top teams. Next year, we’re planning on changing that.”


The Bullseyes scored two touchdowns in a one-minute span to cut the lead to 11 with just under three minutes left, as Ryo Onchi  threw two TD passes sandwiched around a successful onside kick . They made it down to the Bulls 1-yard line in the final seconds, but were stopped twice, although it would not have been enough for victory anyway.


Gonzales, a product of Oregon State, joined the Bulls after a six-year hiatus away from football that included a stint in Japanese rugby. He currently works as a chef at the Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku.


Capping a season of futility, which included a few close losses, he said a victory gives the Bulls some hope of a turnaround next season.


“I hope this starts leading us in the right direction and we start taking the proper steps and taking things more serious.”


Ironically, this season the Bulls lost to both X2-bound teams, the Eagles and the Hawkeye, while the Caterpillars’ lone regular-season  loss in X2 was to the Bullseyes. The Hawkeye finished 1-5 in their first-ever X1 season.


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