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Kaisers end 62-year Koshien Bowl drought

by Kaz Nagatsuka

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. — The Kansai University Kaisers broke their six-decade drought with an impressive ground game.

Senior quarterback Daichi Haraguchi rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns and junior Yuto Fujimori had 261 yards and a touchdown returning kicks as Kansai defeated the Hosei University Tomahawks 50-38 before a crowd of 25,000 in the 64th Koshien Bowl on Sunday afternoon.

Kansai, the Kansai league champion, was crowned the collegiate national champions for the first time in 62 seasons. The school last won the Koshien Bowl in 1948.

“We wouldn’t have been able to win with just our offense and defense,” Kansai manager Masatoshi Isowa said. “But fortunately we could score points in the kicking phase as well and keep up in the shootout, which was great.

“It would’ve been a tough contest with just our offense and if that had been the case we would’ve lost.”

With the Kaisers up 43-38, Haraguchi came out of traffic and made a 68-yard touchdown run to seal the victory with just 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the final quarter.

Kansai kept pounding on the Tomahawks with its running game, rushing for 303 yards overall, while throwing just nine passes (completing six).

The game unexpectedly became a blow-exchanging affair as both offenses came through. There were five lead changes in the first half, which ended with Kansai ahead 17-16.

Hosei cut an 11-point deficit to two in the fourth, but signal-caller Keiji Yamaguchi threw a critical interception with 2:17 left, before Haraguchi’s game-securing score.

The Tomahawks accounted for 382 yards in total offense, which was better than Kansai’s 361.

For Hosei, the Kanto B group winner, 185-cm running back Takuto Hara was its lethal weapon. The senior ran for 120 yards finished with 97 yards receiving and two touchdowns (one apiece in rushing and receiving).

“Since we heard about it, we’ve played by embracing the great expectations of our elder players and that has helped us,” Haraguchi said of his school’s long layoff between titles.

Haraguchi was named the Koshien Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Fujimori, who notched a 84-yard kickoff return TD in the third period, won the Chuck Mills Trophy, the award given to best collegiate player, after the game.

“I never imagined that I’d win this kind of thing at all,” said Fujimori, a high school outfielder who once aimed to step on the Koshien field as a baseball player.

Kansai had been overwhelmed by Hosei during the spring. The Kaisers lost to the Tomahawks 36-0 in an annual exchanging game in the spring.

Kansai will face the winner of Dec. 21′s Japan X Bowl, the X League championship, between the Kajima Deers and Fujitsu Frontiers, on Jan. 3 at Tokyo Dome.