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Japan defeats U.S. squad in Global Challenge Bowl

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

KAWASAKI — Since American football was introduced here in the early 1930s, Japan had one of the most memorable moments in its history on Saturday when its under-19 squad defeated its American compatriots 24-14 at Kawasaki Stadium in the Under-19 Global Challenge Bowl 2008.

Japan picked up one of its rare victories over the United States, the mother country of American football, and avenged a 23-20 loss in the IFAF World Cup final last July.

Before a crowd of 4,800 at Kawasaki Stadium, Japan played well offensively and defensively, establishing a 24-0 lead going into the final quarter.

Quarterback Shohei Kato of Kwansei Gakuin University completed 13 of 21 for 162 yards and a touchdown while throwing two interceptions. Kato connected with his Kwansei Gakuin teammate Ryo Mandai for a 47-yard scoring strike during the second quarter, helping Mandai earn the MVP award.

Nihon University defensive back Hidetoshi Yano led the team with five solo tackles to help shut down the U.S. offense.

Japanese players used their speed, quickness and fundamentally sound techniques to overcome their disadvantages in size. Defensive linemen often penetrated into the U.S. offensive backfield to put pressure on quarterback Daniel Nicolas of Canyon Del Oro High School in Tucson, Ariz.

“It is their speed (that impressed me most),” said U.S. head coach Jeff Scurran, a longtime coach in the high school and college ranks in Arizona. “I think three or four kids on the line can play in U.S. major high school football in America, not colleges. I was really impressed with the way the big kids moved around on the field.”

Japan scored on its first possession, a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by Ritsumeikan University’s Tatsuya Kureta’s 13-yard touchdown run.

After the two squads exchanged some punts, the host widened its lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter on Kato’s pass to Mandai. Then Masashi Ishikawa of Ritsumeikan kicked a 19-yard field goal in the closing second of the second quarter for a 17-0 halftime lead.

Japan wasted no time to add a score in the second half. After forcing the Americans to punt on the first drive of the third quarter, Japan used linebacker Tomokazu Sueyoshi of Waseda University Senior High School as a ball carrier for a 2-yard touchdown run.

The U.S. offense finally revived itself late in the game. Akeem Satterfield of Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, Penn., had a 1-yard TD run 38 seconds into the final quarter, capping an 11-play, 82-yard drive.

The U.S. squad looked to grab the momentum when the defense forced Japan to go three-and-out twice in a row, and Nicholas hit running back Aubura Taylor from Santa Rita High School in Tucson, Ariz., with a 15-yard scoring pass to make the score 24-14 with 7:47 to play.

However, the Americans could not gain a yard for the rest of the game and their comeback effort came up short in the 48-minute exhibition game.