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TOP > What’s New > Obic holds on for 1st 3-peat in league history

What’s New

Obic holds on for 1st 3-peat in league history

’12.12.18

The Obic Seagulls became the first team in league history to win three straight championships, rallying from behind twice and then holding on to defeat the Kajima Deers 27-24 in the Japan X Bowl on Monday night at Tokyo Dome.

 

Shun Sugawara threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the second half when Obic took advantage of three turnovers en route to capturing a record seventh title.

 

“In the second half, the offense got a little bit more rhythm and then the defense guys got the turnovers,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said. “That’s why we could win today.”

 

With the win, Obic (9-0) advanced to the Rice Bowl on Jan. 3 at Tokyo Dome, where it will aim to become the first corporate league team to capture a third consecutive national title. That game against collegiate champion Kwansei Gakuin University will be a rematch of last year’s clash, which Obic won 38-28 for a record fifth title.

 

Before a crowd of 23,126 on Monday, Obic running back Takuto Hara was named the game MVP after rushing for 78 yards on eight carries, half of which were for long gains in key situations. Noriaki Kinoshita caught nine passes for 83 yards, while Takuya Furutani, Kentaro Mori and Ryoma Hagiyama all had touchdown receptions. Tataeru Nakanishi scored on a 3-yard run for Obic’s final score.

 

 

Obic’s Takuto Hara (32), who was named the game’s MVP, leaps over a Kajima defender during a third-quarter gain. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kajima (8-1), looking for its third title overall and first since 2009, came close behind a sterling performance from quarterback Takuya Yamashiro in place of starter Shohei Kato, who suffered a knee injury in the semifinal win over the Fujitsu Frontiers.

 

Yamashiro got off to a slow start, but caught fire later on and ended up completing 25 of 33 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns, although he also had two interceptions that would prove costly.

 

 

Kajima wide receiver Naoki Maeda scores on a 24-yard pass reception in the fourth quarter. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“At first he was under a lot of pressure and it was hard for him to see downfield,” Kajima head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “We started using the rollout and moving him around and it allowed him better vision. He stayed relaxed and played well.”

 

The East Division champion Deers went into the second half up 10-7—the first time this season Obic had trailed at halftime—and looked to keep the momentum with a drive on their opening series.  Obic needed a game-changer and it appeared in the form of burly defensive end B.J. Beatty, who showed remarkable agility in intercepting a flare pass in the right flat.

 

“Kajima is a good team, they’ve been good all year, they showed it today,” Beatty said. “They had us going into halftime. I talked to K.J. [defensive end Kevin Jackson] and coach Ohashi, I said when we come out we got to throw a punch right back.

 

“I kind of figured out how the quarterback was reading me, which is why I jumped in on that interception. That’s just what we do, just fight. It’s the first time we’ve ever been down, so I was kind of interested to see how guys reacted. I’ve been down a lot of times, so I just knew you just have to come back out and start throwing blows.”

 

Mori was impressed by Beatty’s athleticism on the pick. “That was a great play. Not many Japanese could do that, with his reach and speed.”

 

 

Obic running back Takuya Furutani breaks free on a 22-yard reception for the opening score of the game in the first quarter. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Central Division champion Seagulls, taking over at the 43, converted that into a touchdown, with Sugawara capping a nine-play drive by throwing a 9-yard strike to Mori to go ahead 14-10. Mori did a good job of holding onto the ball as he was leveled by Takahiro Sakai at the goal line.

 

Kajima needed just three plays to regain the lead, as Yamashiro connected with rookie Yasuhiro Miyamoto on a 45-yard touchdown pass. But Obic came back with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Sugawara’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Hagiyama. The extra point was blocked, leaving Obic with a 20-17 lead.

 

 

Kajima running back Yasuhiro Maruta stretches out to score on a 4-yard run in the second quarter. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kajima had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, but Daisuke Aoki, who kicked a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter, was wide left on a 47-yard attempt.

 

After forcing Obic to punt, Kajima committed its second major mistake, as Yasuhiro Maruta took a hard hit and fumbled, giving the Seagulls the ball at the Deers 38. Obic took seven plays to go the distance, with Nakanishi bouncing off Shota Tomita at the line and spinning in from the 3 to make it 27-17.

 

Obic linebacker Naoki Kosho then picked off a Yamashiro pass and, while the Seagulls weren’t able to pad their lead, they burned enough time off the clock to make things very difficult for Kajima.

 

A 24-yard touchdown pass from Yamashiro to Naoki Maeda with 1:56 left provided the final margin of victory as Obic won a mad scramble on the ensuing onside kick, then ran out the clock to the cheers of its fans.

 

Obic, which last lost in the Fall season in the 2009 second stage, had three turnovers in the first half—including a Sugawara fumble on the final play—but Kajima was only able to convert the miscues into three points.

 

“I think the defense did a pretty good job in the first half,” Jackson said. “We were minus-three turnovers going into halftime and the offense just really couldn’t figure out what Kajima was doing on defense. They were disguising a lot of the stuff they were doing. So for us, to be minus-three and come out and it’s 10-7, that’s pretty good.”

 

Sugawara, who completed 23 of 33 passes, led Obic to a touchdown on its opening drive, with Furutani taking a pass in the flat and scampering 22 yards into the corner of the end zone. But the Seagulls could do little else, as Sugawara was intercepted by Koki Kato and Yuki Ikei was stripped of the ball after a pass reception. Kato picked up the loose ball.

 

“It was a tough start,” Sugawara said. “Kajima prepared well and put pressure on us. We expected this kind of game.”

 

Yamashiro and the Deers were being shut down as well until the former Waseda star suddenly came to life, sparked by one big play. Facing 3rd-and-7 at the 13 early in the second quarter, Yamashiro hit Yasushi Nakagawa in full stride over the middle for a 25-yard gain.

 

It was the first of nine straight completions for Yamashiro as the Deers drove to the Obic 4. On a 4th-and-1 gamble, Maruta went off right guard and, getting enough for the first down, kept going after the initial hit and stretched out to get the ball over the goal line to tie the score at 7-all.

 

Sugawara has not lost a game since joining Obic from the Sagamihara Rise in 2010. Each championship is as satisfying as the others.

 

“Each year we get new players and this year we made it back here and won,” he said. “Each time I’m happy and this year I’m just as happy.”

 

While Sugawara has gone a long spell without tasting defeat, Beatty had not walked off the field a champion in awhile. Beatty played at Colorado University, which did not have a winning season during the years (2007-10) he was there.

 

“I haven’t been in this position since high school,” said Beatty, who was out of the game last year before being recruited by Obic via former Seagulls coach—and Hawaiian friend and neighbor–David Stant. “Struggled a little at Colorado, so it feels really good to be back on the winning side of things. I didn’t have any expectations other than that I was going to help this team as much as I could.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

 

Obic holds on for 1st 3-peat in league history (Photo by MI Planning)

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