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Obic punches return ticket to X Bowl; Kajima loses final game

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

There are times when the losers have more stories to tell than the winners, and that was the case on Sunday, when the Kajima Deers lost to the defending X League champion Obic Seagulls 21-12 in the Final Four playoffs at Yokohama Stadium.

The Seagulls advanced to the Japan X Bowl for the the League championship.

It was the final game for the two-time national champion Deers, who have been one of the elite teams since joining the corporate league in 1990.

Since the league was rearranged into the X League in 1996, the Deers never lost more than two games during the regular season, reaching the championship game six times and winning two titles.

The team has been owned by the Kajima Corporation, but earlier this year, the major construction and real estate development company announced it would end the sponsorship after this season.

The Deers can remain in the league after next season, but they become a club team and have to search for a sponsor.

Lixil Corporation, whose main business is the manufacture and sale of building material and housing equipment, will be the sponsor for next few years. The official announcement will made in January, 2014, according to Kiyoyuki Mori, the Deers’ head coach.

“We wanted to play two more games (the X League championship game and the national championship game against Japan’s collegiate champion), but we just fell short,” Mori said. “I believe the Kajima decision to stop sponsorship did not affect our play this season. The players focused on football well and they always kept their chins up no matter what we won or lost.”

The new team’s name will likely be the Lixil Deers and Mori said he will stay on as head coach.

Sunday’s contest was a rematch of last year’s Japan X Bowl, and the winning side remained the same.

The Seagulls are just one victory away from an unprecedented fourth consecutive X League title. They’ll take on the winner of the other semifinal game in Japan X Bowl on Dec. 16 at Tokyo Dome.

The Fujitsu Frontiers played the Panasonic Impulse later Sunday at Kobe’s Kincho Stadium.

The Seagulls had to overcome two interceptions by quarterback Shun Sugawara, one of which led to the Deers’ first field goal and a 3-0 lead early.

The Deers lead didn’t last long, as Obic running back Takuya Furutani scored on a 1-yard rush with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

The Deers cut the margin to 7-6 with a field goal in the second quarter, but Obic wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ken Shimizu for a 14-6 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter, Deers running back Yasuhiro Maruta rushed 1-yard for a score to make it 14-12 but their attempt to tie the game with a two-point conversion failed and another Obic touchdown — Furutani’s 3-yard rush — and an extra point made it a two-possession game.

The Deers had two more offensive series, but they ended with an interception and an incomplete pass on fourth down respectively, putting a period on the history of the Kajima-owned football team.