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American Football in Japan

Seagulls back on top

(January 4, 2021) - The Obic Seagulls won their first national championship since 2013 by beating the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters 35-18 in the 74th edition of the Rice Bowl at the Tokyo Dome. With the win they improved their record number of national titles to eight. After a close first half the Seagulls broke the game open early in the third quarter with two touchdowns within a span of just two minutes and 20 seconds. First WR Takahiro Nozaki increased Obic’s lead to 21-12 with a 53-yard touchdown pass from QB Jimmy Laughrea and on the next series WR Aruto Nishimura took a handoff from Laughrea and ran for a 49-yard score that gave the Seagulls a 16-point lead (28-12). The Fighters, who played in eight of the last ten Rice Bowls and lost all eight games, never recovered. In the second minute of the fourth quarter another big play, a 42-yard pass from Laughrea to TE Holden Huff, increased the lead to 35-12.

Things looked good for the college champion early. Following a surprising onside kick to open the game the Fighters took a 6-0 lead with a 10-yard run by RB Kimiaki Maeda. The Seagulls answered about three minutes later with RB Asaki Mochizuki’s 8-yard touchdown run and took a 14-6 lead with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Laugrea to Huff two minutes and 40 seconds later following a blocked punt. But the Fighters stayed in the game with RB Koki Miyake’s 84-yard touchdown run 35 seconds before halftime.

(Text: Dieter Hoch / Photo: Rice Bowl)

Seagulls knock off defending champion

(December 16, 2020) - The Obic Seagulls advanced to the Rice Bowl for the first time since 2013 by beating defending X League and japanese champion Fujitsu Frontiers 13-7 in the Japan X Bowl. In the Rice Bowl on January 3 at the Tokyo Dome the Seagulls will battle the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters who won their third straight college championship by beating the Nihon University Phoenix 42-24 in the Koshien Bowl. It will be the fourth time the two teams meet in the Rice Bowl.

The matchwinners in the Japan X Bowl were RB Taku Lee and DB Hayate Kubo. While Lee was the key offensive weapon with 111 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns Kubo made the key play at the end of the game. With their last offensive possession the Frontiers moved from their own 22-yard line to a first down at the Seagulls’ 6-yard line in ten plays. Then, with two seconds left, QB Michael Birdsong threw a pass to WR Junpei Yoshimoto in the right corner of the endzone which was batted down by Kubo.

The Seagulls took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with Taku Lee’s first touchdown (1-yard run) five plays after a Bronson Beatty interception at the Seagulls’ 15-yard line. The key play of that drive was a 43-yard pass from QB Jimmy Laughrea to WR Aruto Nishimura that gave the Seagulls a first down at the 1-yard line. Midway through the second quarter the Seagulls increased their lead to 13-0 with a 7-yard touchdown run by Lee.

The Frontiers had only one good drive in the first half (7 plays, 82 yards) that was finished with a 12-yard touchdown pass by Birdsong to WR Riki Matsui to cut the Seagulls’ lead to six points. In a scoreless second half the Frontiers had a great opportunity to take the lead when they started a possession at Obic’s 39-yard line following a punt. In five plays they reached a first down at Obic’s 11-yard line but were stopped on fourth down at the 2-yard line (Birdsong run) with four minutes and 40 seconds left in the game.

(Text: Dieter Hoch / Photo: X League)

Frontiers win fifth Rice Bowl

(January 4, 2020) - The Fujitsu Frontiers continued their success in recent years winning their fifth national title in six years. The champion of the X League defeated college champion Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters 38-14 in the Rice Bowl in front of 33.000 fans at the Tokyo Dome. QB Tsubasa Takagi was voted MVP of the game. He completed more than 80 percent of his passes, threw three touchdown passes and led his team to an early 21-0 lead.

The Fighters scored their first touchdown with about three minutes left in the first half with a 64-yard touchdown run by RB Koki Miyake. But just two minutes later Fujitsu went up by 21 points again with a 41-yard touchdown run by X League MVP Samajie Grant for a 28-7 halftime lead. The Fighters never ha a chance to get back in the game and did not score again before the final minute of the game.

Game report at The Japan Times Online


(Text: Dieter Hoch / Photo: Fujitsu Frontiers)

Nixon carries Frontiers past BigBlue

(August 30, 2018) - A former defensive standout turned running back and several new import players provided the highlights of week 1 in the X League. Trashaun Nixon, an All X League linebacker the past two seasons, ran for 214 yards and the first three touchdowns of his team as the Fujitsu Frontiers routed the IBM BigBlue 41-6 in a rematch of last year's Japan X Bowl. The defending X League and japanese champion lost QB Colby Cameron and RB Gino Gordon but did not miss a beat thanks to Nixon's switch to the offense and new quarterback Michael Birdsong, a product of Marshall University, who ran for 29 yards and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to WR Teruaki Clark Nakamura. Next up for the Frontiers is the Asahi Beer Silver Star, a 20-8 winner against the Dentsu Club Caterpillars in the opening game of the season.

In the central division the Nojima Sagamihara Rise celebrated a 24-7 win in a key Super 9 game against the LIXIL Deers. In that game new US import quarterback Jimmy Laughlea, replacing last year's All X League performer Devin Gardner, threw for one touchdown for a 21-7 lead in the third quarter and opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Meanwhile Nojima's defense held the offense of the Deers to just 197 total yards. On September 2 the Rise will face the Obic Seagulls, a 90-3 winner against a totally overmatched Bulls Football Club.

Even in defeat some new players from the US had noteworthy performances. QB Cody Sokol (Louisiana Tech) and WR Anas Hasic (West Florida) provided most of the offense for the Elecom Kobe Finies in a 21-14 loss against West Division favourite Panasonic Impulse. Hasic, who fnished the game with nine catches, scored both touchdowns for the Finies on passes by Sokol for a 14-10 lead at halftime. Panasonic avoided the upset with a 5-yard touchdown run by QB Benjamin Anderson and a succesful two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter.

Week 1 wrapup at www.xleague.com


(Text: Dieter Hoch / Photo: X League)

Japan X Bowl rematch highlights week 1

(August 13, 2018) - Defending X League and japanese champion Fujitsu Frontiers will get a heavy dose of what’s ahead this fall season early. In week 1 (August 25 through 27) the winner of three of the last four national championships opens the 2018 season with a game against IBM BigBlue - a rematch of last year’s Japan X Bowl. Last December the Frontiers crushed the BigBlue 63-23. This time a much closer score is likely since the Frontiers lost two key players on offense - QB Colby Cameron and RB Gino Gordon - to retirement. And things will not get easier for the Frontiers later during the group stage as they play arguably the second most challenging program in the Super 9. The Frontiers will face two more championship contenders, Panasonic Impulse and the Obic Seagulls, and the Nojima Sagamihara Rise. Only the Asahi Beer Silver Star’s program seems to be tougher with games against the Frontiers, the BigBlue, Panasonic Impulse and the LIXIL Deers.

The group stage concludes on the final weekend in October. The top eight teams of the Super 9 qualify for the playoffs with the 7th and 8th place teams having to play wild card games against the top two Battle 9 teams on November 4. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Novemer 10 and 11, the semifinals for November 25 and the Japan X Bowl for December 17. The Japan X Bowl winner will play the College Champion for the national championship on January 3, 2019.

(Text: Dieter Hoch / Photo: Fujitsu Frontiers)

Defending college champion suspended

(August 13, 2018) - The 2018 season in japanese college football will be played without last year’s champion Nihon University Phoenix. The KCFA suspended the team until the end of the year. All seven originally scheduled regular season games will count as losses and therefore the Phoenix will be automatically demoted to the first division’s second tier, the Big 8, for the 2019 season. The suspension is the result of an ugly incident during this year’s edition of the annual exhibition game between the two most succesful teams in japanese college football on May 6 at Tokyo’s Amino Vital Field. In that game Nihon’s DE Taisuke Miyagawa injured QB Kosei Okuno from the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters with a vicious late hit early in the game. Miyagawa later committed two more personal fouls and was suspended from the game. Shortly after the game rumours came up that Miyagawa’s illegal attacks were ordered by the Phoenix coaches. During a press conference on May 22 Miyagawa explained in detail how the coaches pressured him to try to knock the Fighters’ quarterback out of the game. At the end of July an independent committee that investigated the incident ruled that Miyagawa’s illegal tackles were indeed ordered by the coaches. As a result the KCFA upheld the suspension of the team issued in late May as well as lifelong bans from football activities in the Kanto region for Head Coach Masato Uchida and one of his assistants, Tsutomu Inoue. Both were fired by Nihon University immediately after the report was submitted to the university.

Find detailed coverage of the scandal in the
More Sports section of The Japan Times Online.

(Text: Dieter Hoch)

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