The Obic Seagulls, Japan’s top football team, came up short against the APDFL Blazers on Thursday, losing 16-12 in the Sister Cities International Bowl in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The Seagulls, eight-time champions in Japan’s X League, took a 10-0 lead thanks to a Tataeru Nakanishi rushing touchdown and a field goal in the first quarter. But the Blazers, who consisted of selected players from the Amateur to Professional Developmental League, came through afterward and took a lead in the third quarter.
Obic scored two points on a safety in the final quarter before the game ended at Central High School Football Stadium.
In comments posted on the team website, Seagulls head coach Makoto Ohashi expressed frustration after the loss, admitting he wasn’t able to guide his players to their best performance. But at the same time, he seemed to feel an obligation to take advantage of this experience to improve the team going forward.
“Based on this experience, we would like to develop the team,” Ohashi said. “And, if it’s possible, we would like to once again take on an American team.”
NCAA rules were used for the game, but each quarter was 12 minutes (instead of the standard 15).
Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, where the Seagulls are based, and Tuscaloosa have been sister cities since 1986. The exhibition game was hosted by the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission.
The Seagulls, formerly known as the Recruit Seagulls before they became a club team in 2002, have earned an unprecedented seven Rice Bowl national championships, including the last four.
The perennial winners have some American players, including defensive end Kevin Jackson and defensive lineman Byron Beatty Jr., both of whom played at NCAA Division I schools, at the University of Hawaii and University of Colorado, respectively. The team also features, wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita, a former Atlanta Falcons international practice squad player.
The Seagulls took a trip abroad to play an exhibition game for the third consecutive year. They played against the Dresden Monarchs in 2012 and Dusseldorf Panther last year, and defeated both German league clubs.
The 2014 X League season begins on Aug. 25. Obic opens its season on Aug. 31 against the Taiyou Building Management Cranes at Kawasaki Stadium.