YOKOHAMA – Obic Seagulls head coach Naoki Kosho had never experienced a game in which his team got eight turnovers. It happened in a favorable moment when the X League’s knockout round started on Saturday.
The Seagulls scored 20 points off five first-half turnovers and their defense picked off Devin Gardner six times to beat the Nojima Sagamihara Rise 41-22 in the quarterfinal round at Yokohama Stadium.
Obic also forced three fumbles and recovered all of them to shut down Nojima’s high-scoring offense.
“Our game plan is giving pressure to Gardner to prevent him from playing in his rhythm, which is very threatening for us,” Kosho said. “We managed to have an early lead but I don’t think we were just lucky. We controlled the game so that it would happen. Our defense got the ball back and our offense scored. We could played as we prepared.”
The Seagulls scored a touchdown on their first possession on Tomoki Chimura’s 70-yard halfback pass to wide receiver Aruto Nishimura.
Then the Seahawks took the ball away on the Rise’s next five straight possessions — three interceptions and two forced fumbles — and converted them for two touchdowns and two field goals for a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
But former University of Michigan quarterback Gardner had his moments, scoring on a 2-yard run and tossing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Takahide Dejima (kick blocked) for 13 straight points to cut the margin early in the third quarter.
But the Seagulls scored two touchdowns in a 12-second span thanks to another turnover by the Rise. After Shun Sugawara hit Nishimura with a 23-yard scoring strike for the Seagulls’ first touchdown in the second half, the Rise fumbled the ball on the kickoff return, giving away the possession at their own 20.
The Seagulls once again deployed a trick play for a score when wide receiver Noriaki Kinoshita threw a touchdown pass to fellow receiver Ryoma Hagiyama.
The Rise outgained the Seagulls 441 yards to 336 in total offense and had more first downs (25) than their counterpart (13), but turnovers were too costly.
Takuya Iwamoto had two interceptions, while Kevin Jackson recorded two sacks and made a pick.
The Seagulls play the Fujitsu Frontiers, who defeated the Elecom Finies 34-7 later on Saturday at the same venue, on Nov. 26 at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.
In the other quarterfinal game played at Yokohama Stadium, the IBM BigBlue won 51-31 over the Lixil Deers.
The top-seeded Panasonic Impulse, who finished the regular season with a perfect 6-0 mark, take on the All-Mitsubishi Lions at Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka on Sunday to wrap up the top-eight round.
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