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Kanto heavyweights set to meet with title hanging in balance

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

The defending Kanto champion Hosei University Tomahawks will take on the archrival Nihon University Phoenix for the Kanto Collegiate League championship in the Azuma Bowl on Sunday at Yokohama Stadium.

The Kanto football powerhouses will be battling for the Kanto crown for the third consecutive season. The Tomahawks took the title with a 23-22 victory last year, while the Phoenix earned a 27-17 victory in 2011.

The Kanto champion will meet Tohoku University on Dec. 1 to decide the East Japan representative that advances to the Koshien Bowl, the collegiate national championship game, to play the West Japan winner, which will be decided next month.

The Tomahawks, who won Block A with a 7-0 record, use two different type of quarterbacks to lead a balanced attack.

Junior Arou Kondo is the point man in the passing game, while freshman Takafumi Suzuki operates an option-heavy running attack that’s gained 7.5 yards per carry. The Hosei defense is stingy and gave up only 23 points during the seven-game regular season.

The Phoenix went undefeated to win Block B behind an offense that traditionally works out of the shotgun.

Freshman passer Ryohei Takahashi passed for a league-best 1,556 yards, more than double the yardage of second-place Kondo (635), and 19 touchdowns. The defense is opportunistic, recording 18 turnovers for a plus-11 turnover differential, both second in the league.

This is the final season where the Kanto championship will be decided by the two block winners.

The Kanto Collegiate Football Association will rearrange the league system next season. In the new system, the top division, currently divided into two eight-college blocks, will be united into one block that consists eight colleges.

The top four schools of each block this season will belong to the top division.

The KCFA decided to end the two-block system that lasted more than 30 years because it expects the new system to provide more parity and make the league more competitive, in the hope of producing teams that can win the national championship, which has gone to the Kansai champion in 19 of last 22 years (including 1997 when both Kanto and Kansai earned the championship after the game ended in a tie).

The kickoff of the Azuma Bowl is scheduled for 1 p.m. and tickets are available at major ticket outlets.