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Nihon University beats Hosei for Kanto supremacy

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Nihon University freshman quarterback Ryohei Takahashi connected with slot back Yoshimasa Iwamatsu on a 66-yard touchdown strike, and the defense shut down Hosei University as the Phoenix defeated the Tomahawks 13-6 in the Azuma Bowl on Sunday to clinch their first Kanto Collegiate League title in two years and 21st overall.

The Phoenix will face Tohoku University on Dec. 1 at Tokyo’s Amino Vital Stadium for the East Japan championship, which comes with a spot in the Koshien Bowl, the collegiate national championship game, on Dec. 15 against the West Japan representative. Kwansei Gakuin University captured the Kansai League crown with a 6-0-1 record after a scoreless tie with rival Ritsumeikan University at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium on Sunday and is to play Meijo University of Nagoya for the Koshien Bowl berth on Dec. 1 at Oji Stadium in Kobe.

Playing before a crowd of 13,200 at Yokohama Stadium, the Kanto’s powerhouses played for the league championship for the third straight year. Unlike the previous two championship games, which saw combined scores of 44 and 45 respectively, Sunday’s showdown was a low-scoring affair.

The Phoenix defense held the Tomahawks offense, which gained 472.7 yards and eight touchdowns per game during the regular season, to only 199 yards and two field goals. The Tomahawks managed to get beyond midfield just three times and were forced into three-and-outs six times out of 14 possessions.

It was the defending champion Tomahawks who scored first with a 33-yard field goal with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter. The Phoenix, however, quickly answered Takahashi’s 66-yard scoring strike in the next possession to take the lead for good.

“I saw the defense play man-to-man and Iwamatsu ran past the cornerback, so I threw to him,” said Takahashi, who was named the league MVP by Tokyo Football Writers Club.

The Phoenix added a field goal, set up by free safety Yuta Shimozuru’s interception, 18 seconds before halftime.

The Tomahawks advanced to the Phoenix red zone for only the second time during their opening drive of the third quarter, but the drive ended with a 20-yard field goal.

The Phoenix had another scoring opportunity when they marched to the Tomahawks 19-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but it was denied by cornerback Go Sano’s pickoff in the end zone.

The crucial moment of the contest came in the final seven minutes.

With the Phoenix leading 10-6, the Tomahawks drove to the Phoenix 25-yard line, but linebacker Takuya Iwamoto forced quarterback Arou Kondo to fumble, and defensive tackle Yoshiro Matsuo recovered it with 5:03 to play.

The Phoenix turned the miscue into a field goal with 0:08 left to extend the lead to seven points, a deficit the Tomahawks could not overcome.

Iwamatsu was named the game’s MVP after a four-catch, 132-yard performance.