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X Bowl coaches begin mind games

by Kaz Nagatsuka

With a week still to go before the Japan X Bowl, the players have yet to pick up their helmets and pads and the coaches have yet to put on their headsets. But it appears the mental game has already kicked off.

While Panasonic Denko Impulse manager Hirokazu Murakami gave timid remarks, Obic Seagulls head coach Makoto Ohashi tried not to be deceived by that at a Tokyo news conference on Monday.

“It feels good to have been able to advance to our first final game in two years,” Murakami said. “But toward the end of the regular season, we tended to give up leads to opponents, and I never had a team that allows so many points like this. So we probably had some luck getting here.”

Impulse captain Masayoshi Yamanaka echoed Murakami’s tone, saying that the team’s confidence level has dropped with every game since late in the season.

“We feel like we’re weak and have a long way to develop ourselves,” defensive lineman Yamanaka said. “(In the X Bowl) we need to focus on one play at a time and cross our fingers that we can take advantage of few chances.”

Meanwhile, Ohashi did not want to believe his counterpart’s weak-kneed words and attitude.

Ohashi said that it would be scarier when the Impulse, who have made the X League championship game four times in the last six years, take the gridiron with a humble mind-set.

“I bet that they’ll come against us with confidence,” Ohashi said. “And if we go toe to toe with them, we won’t have a chance to win.”

Ohashi added that there is no way he will be off his guard because he personally knows how good these Impulse players are individually.

“I’ve had opportunities to see some of the Panasonic players in person on the national team,” said Ohashi, who has been a coach on the Japan squad in recent years. “They have good, strong individual characters. But they are also so disciplined. I tip my hat to manager Murakami for making such a team.”

Seagulls captain Naoki Kosho said: “We know how good the Panasonic team is — better than any other teams. They are mentally tough and don’t give up until the end.

“We’ll be playing in our first final game in five years, against such a great opponent. We have to go all-out for the 60 minutes.”

The 2010 X Bowl begins at 7 p.m. at Tokyo Dome on Dec. 20.