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TOP > What’s New > Tomatsu makes name for self in Japan’s rout of Philippines

What’s New

Tomatsu makes name for self in Japan’s rout of Philippines

’14.04.27

TOKYO (April 26)–A rare second-generation player in Japan, the Nojima Sagamihara Rise’s Eisuke Tomatsu followed in his father’s footsteps and became a running back. As he showed Saturday, he’s well on his way to making a name for himself.

 

Tomatsu rushed for two touchdowns and returned a punt for another as two-time world champion Japan spoiled the international debut of the Philippines national team, storming to an 86-0 victory in the Asian qualifier for next year’s 5th IFAF World Championship in Sweden.

 

“Individually, this is my first time on the Japan national team and I wasn’t satisfied with how I played against Germany,” Tomatsu said, referring to Japan’s 38-0 victory two weeks ago in a exhibition game, in which he rushed for five yards on three carries. “I wanted to do something in the Philippines game. I have to keep improving to get on the national team for next year.”

 

The 1.65-meter, 70-kilogram Tomatsu rushed for 46 yards on six carries and was named Japan’s MVP for the game.

 

Tomatsu’s father, Hidemasa, was a starting running back for the Asahi Beer Silver Star team that won the Japan corporate league (the predecessor of the X-League) in 1989. Observers have noticed a similarity in their running styles.

 

“Since I was young, I watched videos of my father, so it’s natural we would look alike,” the 25-year-old Tomatsu said. “People who played with my dad still say he was a better player, so while I admire him, I also consider him a rival.”

 

When it comes to Asia, Japan has no rivals, as it showed in cruising to victory over an inexperienced and overmatched Philippines team to qualify for the World Championship for the fifth time. Japan won the first two world championships in 1999 and 2003, then finished as runner-up to the United States in 2007 and third in 2011.

 

“Honestly speaking, they are on the level that Japan was on many years ago,” Japan head coach Kiyoyuki Mori of the Lixil Deers said. “But they played clean. They came here in difficult conditions to play the game they cherish. I have great respect for them.”

 

The Obic Seagulls’ Shun Sugawara and Lixil’s Shohei Kato threw two touchdown passes apiece–all in the first quarter–and the defense forced four turnovers and allowed just one first down as Japan showed the vast gap that exists between it and a country that only formed its national federation in 2009.

 

“Today was a very fun game for us to play against a well-skilled, talented Japan team,” Philippines head coach William Yeh said. “I felt like we learned a lot from this game. We took this as an example of the type of work and dedication that it takes to build a great team such as Japan.”

 

In joining South Korea as Asia’s representatives in Sweden in 2015, the Japanese scored in every possible way except for a kickoff return—and only because they only had one chance. Japan also returned both a fumble and interception for touchdowns.

 

And the hosts rolled to victory with grace. Getting the ball with 1:33 left in the half on the Philippines 23 and a 44-0 lead, the Japanese opted to take a knee for two consecutive downs to run out the clock rather than try to pile on more points.

 

“The Japan team, not only are they good, not only are they strong, they showed very good gentlemanship on the field,” said Philippines defensive lineman and captain Juan Paolo Suarez, who was named his team’s MVP for the game.

 

“They could have killed us a lot of times. But we know they took the knee, we know they took it easy, to allow us to learn. Football isn’t always about winning; it’s about winning the right way. And Japan won the right way.”

 

Yeh said the Philippines team had only practiced together for two months, and was missing some top players who couldn’t make the trip due to the expenses involved or work commitments. Most players have experience at some level, some while growing up in the United States, although three members were playing the first game of their lives.

 

“Our biggest objective was to try to come together as a team because we all play separately back home, and I think we were able to achieve that today,” Yeh said.

 

The difference was particularly apparent on kickoffs, as the Philippines returners had trouble catching the long, high kicks by the Panasonic Impulse’s Eita Saeki that dipped and bobbed in the wind. It was also difficult for the Philippines to match the speed of the Japanese, whose running backs constantly evaded tackles for long gains.

 

It didn’t take Japan long to show the Philippines what they were in for on the clear, temperate day at Tokyo’s Amino Vital Field. On the first play from scrimmage, Deers wide receiver Yasuhiro Miyamoto took a pass in the right flat from Sugawara and rambled 56 yards for a touchdown. Miyamoto later also handled the kicking duties, proving to be an able backup for Saeki.

 

On the next series, Sugawara, who has led Obic to four straight X-League titles, connected with teammate Akimitsu Mori on a 24-yard scoring pass.

 

Kato then came in and sandwiched short touchdown passes to Panasonic’s Shoma Endo and the Fujitsu Frontiers’ Tomoaki Ohashi around a safety by Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers defensive lineman Toru Hirasawa, who corraled quarterback Michael Hoese in the end zone as Japan led 30-0 after the first quarter. Earlier in the drive that resulted in Ohashi’s TD, Japan had a touchdown pass called back because of a holding penalty, one of their few mistakes.

 

Tomatsu returned a punt 36 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter, then scored on a 2-yard run as Japan went into halftime up 44-0.

 

After Rise teammate Takashi Miyako ran for a 26-yard touchdown on Japan’s first possession of the second half, Obic defensive back Keisaburo Isokawa picked up a Roese fumble and returned it 14 yards for a score.

 

The highlight of the day for the visitors came on their next possession. Facing 4th-and-7 from their own 28, Roese faked a punt, rolled to his left and connected with Paul Vincent Reyes for a 15-yard pass and a historic first down. It was also their only gain longer than three yards the entire afternoon.

 

“It was a big moral victory for us, more than anything else,” Yeh said. “We felt like we needed to get something going. Japan had played all of our punts very well, so we felt that we needed to take a chance there to make something happen.

 

“Unfortunately, two plays later we threw an interception, so it nullified that….But I felt that it was a big step for us. Our first first down as a national team was one to remember, so we’re very proud of that.”

 

Lixil safety Hidetoshi Yano intercepted Roese’s pass and sliced his way 62 yards to the end zone as Japan took a 65-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

 

Ohashi, a 1.87-meter, 112-kilogram tight end, was used as a running  back in short-yardage situations and scored Japan’s next touchdown by bulling in from the 1. Tomatsu and Miyako finished up the scoring with touchdown runs of 4 and 7 yards, respectively.

 

Japan’s three quarterbacks finished a combined 16 of 19 for 205 yards, with Sugawara going a perfect 4-for-4 for 100 yards. Takuto Hara, the MVP of Obic’s win in last January’s Rice Bowl for the national championship, led all rushers with 63 yards on four carries.

 

The Philippines completed 4 of 14 passes for 14 yards, but lost 45 yards rushing on 17 carries.

 

Japan coach Mori praised his young offensive and defensive lines.

 

“We only have one player on the lines who was on a past national team, and that was my biggest concern going into these games,” he said. “We leaned toward picking bigger players, but were not sure how they would do. In the two games, their understanding of the system and performance on the field went beyond my expectations.”

 

Still, Mori knows the team has plenty of work ahead of it before heading to Sweden.

 

“At this point, we cannot compete on a level with the United States and Canada,” Mori added. “We have to get more physical.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

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