YOKOHAMA – Takuto Hara rushed for 10 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter as the Obic Seagulls defeated the Nojima Sagamihara Rise 12-3 at Yokohama Stadium in the X League Central Division showdown on Sunday.
Both teams entered the game with a 4-0 record, but the three-time defending national champion Seagulls finished the first stage with a 5-0 perfect record.
In the X League, 18 teams are divided into three divisions with each team playing five divisional opponents in the first stage. The top three of each division advance to the second stage, called the “Super 9,” while the other nine teams play in the “Battle 9″ stage. The Seagulls and the Rise have both secured a berth in the Super 9 stage, which starts on Nov. 2.
Under heavy rain, both teams got off to a sloppy start. Passes were off-target, long snaps sailed too high, and tackles were missed here and there. Obic starter Manabu Tatsumura, known as one of the better passers in the league, completed only 6 of 15 for 76 yards with no scores. The situation was not very good either for Nojima quarterback Masato Kinoshita, who was 8 for 19 for 43 yards, with no touchdowns.
Nojima turned to running attack, which gave it the game’s early momentum. The Rise earned five first downs in the first half while the Seagulls had only two en route to a 3-0 halftime lead on Shin Idezawa’s 43-yard field goal.
But the Rise failed to extend their momentum into the third quarter when they gave up a safety in the first possession. On the fourth-and-five at their 25-yard line, the long snap went too high over punter Kantaro Kimura’s head. Kimura kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
The Seagulls started the next drive at their own 37-yard line and advanced 63 yards on seven plays to score the game’s only touchdown by Hara.
Trailing 9-3, the Rise had the ball on fourth-and-1 at their own 11-yard line with 4:35 to play in the game. They opted to punt instead of going for the first down that would have extended their drive. Then the Seagulls scored on Yosuke Kaneoya’s 33-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game and took it away from the Rise’s reach.
“This was one of the toughest first stages we ever had,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said, looking back over the first half of the season. “Every team has improved a lot. Also, we are the team to beat because we’re the champion. Everybody studies what we do and is focused on beating us. That forced us to play with patience just as we did today. It is a good experience for my players, though.”