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Frontiers post first victory over Deers since 2009

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

The Fujitsu Frontiers, helped by their American newcomers, finally defeated the archrival Kajima Deers 15-7 on Monday night at Todoroki Stadium in the final game of the X League first stage.

The Frontiers picked up their first win over Kajima since the 2009 season and avenged a 17-10 loss to the Deers in last June’s Pearl Bowl Final, clinching the East Division with a perfect 5-0 record. Kajima was second with a 4-1 mark.

Running back Gino Gordon rushed for a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter and cornerback Al-Rilwan Adeyami’s fourth-quarter interception denied the Deers’ comeback effort. The Frontiers had another American, defensive lineman Andrew Seumalo in the starting lineup. All three made their debuts in Japan in this fall.

“The three Americans are adjusting to the team, but they did a good job today,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said.

Gordon, a Harvard University product, carried the ball 14 times for 67 yards and a score. His touchdown three minutes into the first quarter came out of the wildcat formation which put him at quarterback. He caught the snap and ran 3 yards for the score.

Gordon teamed up with Yusuke Shinshi (10 carries, 68 yards) and Keita Takahashi (seven carries, 71 yards) for Fujitsu’s strong ground attack.

The Frontiers took a 7-0 lead on Gordon’s touchdown and widened it to 9-0 three minutes later on a safety when Kajima running back Yasuhiro Maruta was tackled in his own end zone. Fujitsu added two field goals for a 15-0 halftime lead.

The Frontiers’ running attack was effective at keeping their drives alive, but they had troubles with their red zone offense. They marched inside the Deers 20 five times during the game but managed to connect for a just touchdown and two field goals. They alo had two field goal attempts blocked.

Kajima came back in the second half with its passing attack. Shohei Kato found receiver Yasuhiro Miyamoto wide open along the sideline and hit him with 65-yard touchdown strike. That cut Fujitsu’s lead to 15-7 and the Deers looked to grab the momentum.

In the next possession, Kajima advanced to the Frontiers’ 42-yard line, but Kato’s pass was intercepted by Shoichi Hida. The Deers had another chance at the opponents’ 13-yard line, only to see Adeyami dive to pick it off with 3:34 remaining in the game.

“We were kind of in a Cover-2,” Adeyami said. “Coaches put us in position to make plays and I just caught the ball.”

Then the Fujitsu offense did its part, eating up 2:44 off the clock before giving the ball back to the Deers, who advanced to the Frontiers’ 39-yard line but fell short.

“We had a pretty good first stage,” Fujita said. “I don’t remember how many times we lost to the Deers in a row. This is a big victory for us because we were able to break a wall by stopping the losing skid to Kajima.”

With Monday’s game, the X League wrapped up the first stage. The top three teams of each division advanced to the second stage called the “Super 9,” which fight for the national championship, while the other nine teams are to play in the “Battle 9″ stage.

The teams that advanced to the Super 9 are: Fujitsu, Kajima, Asahi Beer from the East, Obic, Nojima Sagamihara, IBM from the Central, Panasonic, Asahi Soft Drinks, As One from the West.

The second stage starts Nov. 2. The top four teams of the Super 9 stage advance to the playoffs.

The Japan X Bowl, the X League championship game, is scheduled for Dec. 16 at Tokyo Dome.