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Big Bears, Fighters to square off in Koshien Bowl

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Yuta Sasaki threw three touchdown passes in the first half as the Waseda University Big Bears routed the Tohoku University Hornets 47-2 on Sunday at Amino Vital Field in Chofu, Tokyo, in the Eastern Japan Championship.

The Big Bears earned a berth in the Koshien Bowl for the second consecutive season and for the fourth time overall. Waseda will face the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters, who defeated the Ritsumeikan University Panthers 26-17 on Sunday at Osaka’s Expo Stadium to clinch Western Japan title, on Dec. 18 at Koshien Stadium for the national collegiate championship.

“We were able to start fast to establish our rhythm and control the momentum of the game,” Waseda head coach Noboru Hamabe said. “Now we’re back in the Koshien Bowl. We’ll prepare over the next two weeks and we want to play our best game of the season.”

According to Hamabe, the Big Bears have never faced the Fighters, who will be making their 50th appearance in the Koshien Bowl.

“The circumstances of major colleges in the Kansai league are much different from ours and they take a different approach to making their teams,” said Hamabe, who is in his fourth year at the helm. “But we’re just going to do what we believe is right. When we win the championship, we will prove the value of our brand of football.”

Kanto League champion Waseda scored touchdowns on each of its possessions in the first half en route to a 28-0 halftime lead. Sasaki tossed a 2-yard scoring pass to Tatsuya Yamazaki with 5:23 left in the opening quarter and hit Daichi Nishikawa twice with 15- and 4-yard touchdown passes in the second period.

Despite sending backups to the field in the second half, the Big Bears added three more touchdowns and won in a blowout.

The Big Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, out-gaining the Hornets 398-192. The Waseda defense picked off Tohoku quarterback Tokukazu Ikoma four times, killing the Hornets’ scoring chances.

The Hornets’ only score came when linebacker Tatsuro Satake tackled reserve quarterback Shunya Kodama in Waseda’s end zone early in the fourth quarter for a safety.

The Tohoku League champions failed to score on offense.

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