Former Harvard running back Gino Gordon rushed for 112 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Fujitsu Frontiers to a 44-10 victory over the IBM BigBlue on Monday night at Tokyo Dome in the Japan X Bowl.
The Frontiers clinched their first X League title and will play the college champion Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters for the overall national championship on Jan. 3 in the Rice Bowl at the same venue.
“It’s been a long road. This is my 10th year as head coach of the Frontiers, and it took a long time,” Fujitsu’s Satoshi Fujita said. “We tried many times and failed many times. But we kept going for the championship.
“This is the tough season because we had a lot of injuries to our players. But we managed to get the next man up and our players improved.”
Monday’s game was just another case of where the Frontiers had to overcome an injury. This time, it was quarterback Colby Cameron, who left the game after halftime due to an apparent shoulder injury.
“I don’t know how bad it is, but hopefully I can play in the Rice Bowl,” Cameron said.
Backup quarterback Keiya Hiramoto replaced Cameron on the first offensive play of the third quarter and completed 6 of 9 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown while guiding the Frontiers to three scoring drives.
With Hiramoto at quarterback, the Frontiers did not lose their offensive rhythm and turned to their running attack featuring Gordon.
“We didn’t change our game plan after Colby was out,” said Gordon, who had the first four-touchdown game of his career. “We knew we can run the ball, so we decided to keep trying and finish the clock out.”
The showdown between the two American quarterbacks was cut short due to injuries. After Cameron, who formerly played for Louisiana Tech before joining the Frontiers this spring, left the game, ex-UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft of IBM also went down with a left ankle injury in the third quarter.
IBM coach Shinzo Yamada explained that Craft aggravated an injury he originally got in the semifinal game against the Lixil Deers two weeks ago.
Satoshi Tagawa took over for Craft with four minutes left in the third quarter. Craft returned for a few plays in the final period, but left for good with more than eight minutes remaining in the game.
Cameron was 13 of 21 for 115 yards, while Craft completed 23 of 40 passes for 235 and a touchdowns, but was picked off three times.
The Frontiers’ opportunistic defense played a big role in the game. On the sixth play of the opening drive, cornerback Shinya Miki stepped in front of IBM receiver Kohei Kajikawa and picked off a Craft pass, returning it 39 yards for a touchdown.
That was the first of four interceptions by the Frontiers, and two of them were also connected to touchdowns. The Frontiers also recorded six sacks to keep the BigBlue from establishing any offensive rhythm.
Gordon scored on 12-, 2-, 5- and 11-yard rushes and was named the game’s MVP.
After taking a 7-0 lead on Miki’s touchdown, the Frontiers added a field goal in their first offensive series. On the first play of the BigBlue’s next drive, Takafumi Urakawa intercepted a Craft pass to set up Gordon’s first score (the extra-point kick was blocked).
The BigBlue finally reached the end zone when Craft hit Michihiro Ogawa with a 5-yard scoring pass with 11:50 left in the second quarter.
Another interception by the Frontiers, this time by Al-Rilwan Adeyami, set up Gordon’s second score, giving the Frontiers a 23-7 halftime lead.
Hiramoto guided the team to another touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, widening the lead to 30-7.
After allowing a field goal to the BigBlue with 0:45 left in the third quarter, the Frontiers added two touchdowns in the final quarter to wrap up the victory.
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