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Seagulls, Deers advance to Japan X Bowl

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Obic quarterback Shun Sugawara completed 10 of his 14 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns behind a steady defense as the Seagulls seized a spot in the Japan X Bowl for the third straight year with a 24-10 win over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise at Yokohama Stadium on Sunday.

With the Seagulls up 16-3, they sealed the win with a rushing touchdown by running back Tataeru Nakanishi in the third quarter.

Nojima Sagamihara scored a touchdown to make it 24-10 in the fourth, but overall it lacked enough offensive power before the reigning champions’ fierce defense, which has several national team players and a couple of former NCAA Division-I players in defensive end Kevin Jackson (University of Hawaii) and linebacker Byron Beatty Jr. (University of Colorado).

Offensively, wideout Ryoma Hagiyama caught two touchdown passes in the first half alone and notched a game-high 74 yards for Obic.

Running back Takashi Miyako had 100 yards and swift signal-caller Kinoshita followed with 91 yards to lead Nojima Sagamihara’s ground attack. But it struggled in the air and in third-down conversions.

Yet Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi didn’t appear to be in a pleasant mood after the game, because just getting to the X League championship game wasn’t enough for the powerhouse.

“It’s nothing unexpected, but we played against a team that’s advanced up to this point,” Ohashi said. “So we didn’t do some of the things we’ve been able to do before. We need to fix those holes (by the Japan X Bowl).”

On the other side of the bracket, the Kajima Deers patiently rallied back from a 14-3 first-quarter deficit and went on to beat the Fujitsu Frontiers 24-14.

Kajima quarterback Shohei Kato racked up 173 yards, connecting two touchdowns in the air, and Takuya Yamashiro, who came in after Kato was sidelined with a leg injury, tossed for 92 yards with a touchdown, while its defense was stingy after it allowed two touchdowns in the opening period.

“Even after we gave up the scores to the opponents, we kept our composure and our coaches adjusted so well afterward,” said head coach Kiyoyuki Mori, whose Deers will play their first Japan X Bowl in three years. “And we just played one play at a time and that worked out.”

The two unbeaten teams (6-0) will square off in the Japan X Bowl on December 17 at Tokyo Dome. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.