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Frontiers stop Seagulls to reach sixth straight X Bowl

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Trashaun Nixon scored on a 22-yard run with 4:11 remaining in the fourth quarter and Al-Rilwan Adeyemi made a game-clinching interception in the closing seconds, leading the Fujitsu Frontiers to a 13-10 victory over the Obic Seagulls in the semifinals of the X League on Sunday.

Playing before 3,600 fans at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki, the two-time defending champion Frontiers advanced to the Japan X Bowl for the sixth straight season. On Dec. 17 Fujitsu will take on IBM BigBlue, which defeated Panasonic Impulse 24-17 at Osaka’s Expo Flash Field in Sunday’s other semifinal.

“It was a tough game, but my players played a great game,” Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita said. “My players were mentally stable during the game. Even when we were trailing or after we took the lead, the players stayed focused. We were struggling to run the football in the first half, but our offensive line improved in the latter half.”

Fujitsu started the season with new faces at quarterback and running back after stars Colby Cameron and Gino Gordon retired following last season’s titles. The Frontiers brought on Tennessee Tech product Michael Birdsong as a new signal caller and converted linebacker Nixon to the offensive backfield.

“The offense changed a lot,” Fujita said. “We made some changes in offense and took time to establish the connections between quarterbacks and receivers as well as offensive linemen and running backs.”

Those efforts paid off on Sunday.

Birdsong completed 14 of 21 attempts for 157 yards while Nixon rushed 20 times for 123 yards against the stingy Obic defense, which shut out the high-scoring Frontiers in the first three quarters.

After a scoreless first half, the Seagulls took a 3-0 lead in the third quarter. Seven minutes later, Fujitsu finally found the end zone when Birdsong ran four yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, although the Frontiers failed to convert the PAT attempt. Nixon added a touchdown in the next possession for a 13-3 lead.

The Seagulls made the score 13-10 on Skyler Howard’s seven-yard scoring pass to Yuki Ikei with 1:47 to play and got the ball back 28 seconds later. But Howard’s second-down pass was picked off by Adeyemi to end the Seagulls’ comeback effort.