/

United States rallies to beat gutsy Japan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

KAWASAKI — It was a really hard-fought thriller. And it was fitting that the tournament concluded in the most dramatic fashion imaginable with a finale between the two-time defending champions and the motherland of football.

On this day the motherland had the edge, though only slightly.

Team USA capitalized on the momentum it built late in regulation when it tied the game and kicker Craig Coffin nailed a championship-winning field goal in the Americans’ second series of overtime as the U.S. downed Japan 23-20 in the final of the 3rd IFAF World Championships at wind-blown Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki on Sunday afternoon.

“We watched them (Japan) and knew this would be a big struggle,” U.S. coach John Mackovic said after the game. “And it turned out that way.”

Running back Kyle Kasperbauer racked up 54 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Starting quarterback Adam Austin was 12-of-25 for 109 yards through the air.

News photoReceiver Ken Shimizu, left, is tackled by U.S. safety Cary Wade during the fourth quarter of the IFAF World Championship final Sunday at Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki. The U.S. won 23-20.
AP PHOTO

“It was a very good game,” Kasperbauer said. “It was a very impressive, close game.”

With the disappointing loss, Japan’s march towards its third consecutive championship has come to an end as had to settled for the silver medal.

But there was no reason for the players and coaches put their heads down. The Toshiaki Abe-guided squad was at its best in the finale, amazing the 10,231 enthusiastic fans that turned out despite the unstable weather conditions caused by Typhoon Man-yi.

Trailing 7-0, in the second quarter, quarterback Yuichi Tomizawa threw a perfect touch pass to defensive lineman Mitsunori Kihira, who was eligible on the play and running toward the right corner of the end zone, just 1:19 into the period.

Team Japan then went ahead 10-7 on a 49-yard field goal by kicker Yosuke Kaneoya (Obic Seagulls), that was supported by a strong wind that started blowing in the hard rain with 8:02 left in the half.

Trying to catch up with Japan, Team USA looked to move the ball with its ground game centered around Kasperbauer. But it had hard time getting near the end zone as Austin struggled to complete passes. The Japanese defensive backs did a great job for not giving the American wideouts any room to operate.

“As the whole defense, we were going to do everything we could do as entering this game,” Takayuki Terada (Seagulls) said. “I as a defensive back think we did decent job, enjoying the game.”

With the score deadlocked at the end of regulation the contest entered overtime, which applied a tie-breaker rule, unlike the sudden-death format used in the NFL.

On the Americans’ second overtime series the U.S. running backs set the table for Coffin, who easily made the game-winner.

The kick ended the long journey of Japan, which had started its preparations for the World Championships since March.

As the players mourned the defeat, they still took the loss in a positive way.

“We were able to make special plays exclusively for this game against the United States,” said Tomizawa, who completed 14 of his 20 passes for game-high 140 yards with two touchdowns.