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TOP > What’s New > Fujitsu, Obic make bigger splashes, Pearl Bowl final

What’s New

Fujitsu, Obic make bigger splashes, Pearl Bowl final

’14.06.08

KAWASAKI (June 7)—If nothing else, the wet, sloppy conditions added an element of unpredicatability and a touch of the peculiar to the Pearl Bowl semifinals on Saturday. But in the end, the two most powerful teams prevailed and the tournament got a matchup worthy of a championship game.

 

Shun Sugawara stepped up like only he can, coming off the bench to throw two touchdown passes to Ryoma Hagiyama as the Obic Seagulls rallied to a 21-10 victory over the mistake-prone Nojima Sagamihara Rise in the first semifinal at rainy Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium.

 

In the second game, Colby Cameron defied the elements and passed for 247 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Fujitsu Frontiers to a 45-28 win over the defending champion Lixil Deers in a game that was a defensive struggle for three quarters before the two teams exploded for 56 points in the final period.

 

Obic and Fujitsu will meet in the final at Tokyo Dome on June 23 in a rematch of the 2012 championship, which the Seagulls won 31-10, then repeated 24-16 in last December’s Japan X Bowl for their fourth straight league title.

 

Obic’s spring season might have come to an early end had it not been for Sugawara’s performance against his former team and the defense stepping up to hold the Nojima offense to a lone field goal while recording four sacks. The Rise did themselves no favors with a number of mental gaffes.

 

“We also made mistakes,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said. “That’s what happens in this kind of rainy game. Sometimes it’s their mistakes, sometimes it’s our mistakes. It doesn’t matter. My thing is to just concentrate on each play.”

 

Sugawara got off to a shaky start when he entered the game late in the second quarter with the Seagulls trailing 10-7, but settled down to  finish 22 of 32 for 204 yards. He helped clinch the victory by leading a 15-play drive that ate up the final seven minutes.

 

Replacing rookie starter Takushiro Hata, Sugawara had a second straight 3-and-out series when Nojima made an incredible blunder, getting hit with an illegal substitution penalty on Obic’s punt to give the Seagulls a first down with 1:06 left in the half.

 

That seemed to spark the former Hosei University star and he proceeded to complete four of six passes to get Obic to the Nojima 24. From there, he connected with Hagiyama on a 24-yard touchdown pass with :16 on the clock to send Obic into halftime with a 14-10 lead.

 

“If I’m going to be in there, I’m going to try to get results,” Sugawara said. “My objective is to battle so I get in the next time. ”

 

In the third quarter, the wet ball caused problems for both teams on consecutive series. A dropped snap by Nojima punter Shin Idesawa gave Obic the ball at the Nojima 34. The Seagulls drove to the 3, but were pushed back to the 15, Sugawara losing eight yards when he had to recover his own fumble. To top off the follies, Yosuke Kaneoya never got off a 32-yard field goal attempt as the snap went through the hands of the holder.

 

Yet another avoidable Nojima mistake helped Obic pad its lead, as Idesawa put his knee down while fielding the snap on a punt, giving the Seagulls the ball on the Nojima 27. Sugawara hit Hagiyama for 20 yards and Takuto Hara ran to the 3. After linebacker Yoshiki Tanaka broke up a pass, Sugawara found Hagiyama in the middle of the end zone on third down for the final score of the game with 2:00 left in the third quarter.

 

Obic, which defeated Nojima 12-3 in the rain in Yokohama during last year’s fall season, spotted the Rise the early lead when defensive back Toru Sakuma intercepted a pass from Hata and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown.

 

Obic tied the game—also with the help of a Rise mistake, this time a fumble on a punt return—on Takuya Furutani’s 8-yard run with 4:30 left in the first quarter. Hata and Noriaki Kinoshita connected on a 29-yard pass to set up the score.

 

Nojima went ahead in the second quarter with its only sustained drive of the game, which ended with Idesawa’s 25-yard field goal with 5:03 left in the first half. Idesawa had earlier missed a 30-yarder in a drive set up by Loka Kanongata’s interception of a Hata pass.

 

Obic clinched the victory with its long final drive that ended with Sugawara taking a knee on the Nojima 1. In addition to his clutch passes, he kept the drive going by scrambling 17 yards on a 3rd-and-18, with Tateru Nakanishi bulling two yards on fourth down for the first down.

 

“In this rain, the defense did so much, so at the end, it was our [the offense's] job to finish things up,” Sugawara said.

 

Rise quarterback Makoto Kinoshita, under pressure all day, completed 10 of 25 passes for 137 yards, while running back Eisuke Tomatsu rushed for 83 yards on 18 carries.

 

In the second game, the Frontiers dominated for three quarters, then kept up with the Deers when the game evolved into a wild shootout that featured two bombs by Lixil quarterback Shohei Kato and the Deers pulling to within 10 points three times.

 

“The good thing about our defense is they hung in there and that’s all we could ask from them,” said Cameron, who completed 21 of 36 passes. “This whole spring season so far, they’ve done such a great job and had our [the offense's] back when we haven’t played well. It was good that the offense responded and now showed that we had their back. Because it’s a team sport. That just shows resilience on all parts of our team.”

 

Cameron threw two touchdown passes to Teruaki Clark Nakamura and Hidetetsu Nishimura kicked a 40-yard field as the Frontiers went into halftime leading 17-0, which is how it stood going into the fourth quarter.

 

“Yesterday we had practice in the rain [to prepare for today],” said Nakamura, who had four catches for 74 yards. “Colby said to us that [the rain] doesn’t matter. The most important thing is mental.”

 

When Cameron scored on a 6-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 24-0, it looked like the game would just go into cruise control. Instead, it went into overdrive, with neither team letting up just as the rain did and each striking for four touchdowns.

 

First, Kato and Naoki Maeda hooked up on a 77-yard scoring pass, which they then followed with a 54-yarder that suddenly cut Fujitsu’s lead to 24-14 with 9:13 left in the game.

 

A big kickoff return by Yuichi Kon set up Cameron’s third TD pass of the afternoon, a 25-yard floater to Sei Kyo, only to see Lixil pull to within 10 again on Yasuhiro Maruta’s 1-yard run.

 

Fujitsu recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving it the field position for Gino Gordon to scamper 26 yards for the first of his two touchdown runs.

 

A 91-yard kickoff return by Lixil’s Yuto Fujimori set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kato to Yujiro Iwai on the next play, making it 38-28. Fujitsu closed out the fireworks when Gordon scored from the 5 with :17 left.

 

“It is different playing in a wet game,” Cameron. “But I think we just were mentally strong and that helped us the most.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

 

 

 

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