KAWASAKI – Fujitsu kicker Hidetetsu Nishimura nailed a game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired to help the Frontiers book a spot in the Japan X Bowl for the fourth consecutive year with a 28-26 win over the IBM Big Blue in the X League playoff semifinals at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki on Sunday afternoon.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, former UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft hit tight end John Stanton for a touchdown pass that gave the Big Blue a 26-22 lead. But IBM made some critical errors and wasn’t able to extend its lead in the fourth quarter, with one drive ending with a blocked field goal attempt and Craft fumbling away another. IBM didn’t score during the quarter.
Nishimura hit a field goal during the fourth quarter that trimmed IBM’s lead to one point with 7:50 remaining.
Trailing 26-25, Fujitsu got the ball back and started its final drive from its own 41 with just 18 seconds remaining.
Quarterback Colby Cameron completed a pair of passes to wide receiver Clark Teruaki Nakamura to advance the ball to the IBM 28 with five seconds left on the game clock.
Nishimura, arguably one of the best kickers in the country, and who has tried out for the NFL in the past, confidently made the game-winning field goal. His ecstatic teammates and the Frontiers’ staff burst onto the field in excitement the moment the kick went through.
“We tried to play one play at a time,” Frontiers head coach Satoshi Fujita said of the final drive. “And as a result, we kept our drive going. Our team was really focused.”
Cameron, a Louisiana Tech University product, completed 22 of his 37 passes for 262 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. The Fujitsu running backs amassed 120 yards on the ground in the victory. Nakamura had a big game, coming up with 133 yards receiving and a touchdown.
“We always expect to win, it’s our motto since we’ve got here,” Cameron said after the game. “So we work one-minute (drill) in practice, so we’ve got to try to execute what we worked on in practice.”
Cameron admitted his team made some mistakes, but said that overall, his offense played with a good tempo.
“I think overall, we played a team game,” he said.
Cornerback Al-Riwan Adeyami, one of the best defenders on the team, suffered a concussion during the first quarter and didn’t return. But he had a big smile on his face after the game.
“Everything feels good when you win. I’m so happy for our guys,” Adeyami said. “We found a way to win every game this season, which is very, very big. We were down in some games, we found ways to win so I’m just so proud of the way our guys played, our DBs, our offense . . . I mean, it’s an overall team win.”
Winning is everything. That’s a cliche in sports. But it’s exactly the case for the Frontiers, who captured the X League championship in the 2014 season.
“Win by any way,” Cameron said when asked what his team would like to accomplish in the upcoming X Bowl on Dec. 12, at Tokyo Dome. “That’s all we want. Team winning, that’s it. It could be 3-0 or 60-57. We just want to win and try to get another championship.”
Adeyami said: “Whenever you win in football, it doesn’t matter if it’s Pop Warner, high school, at the collegiate level, at the professional level . . . it feels good to win. So we are just excited for the opportunity to always be able to play.”
On the other side of the playoff bracket, the Obic Seagulls edged the reigning X League champion Panasonic Impulse 9-6 in a contest that was decided in a tiebreaker.
Obic, an eight-time league champion, has advanced to the Japan X Bowl for the first time in three years.
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