More Sports / Football

Frontiers rout Finies, advance to Japan X Bowl for seventh consecutive season

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Backup quarterback Tsubasa Takagi threw four touchdown passes and running back Samajie Grant rushed for 171 yards on nine carries to lead the defending X League champion Fujitsu Frontiers to a 31-13 victory over the Elecom Kobe Finies on Saturday in the X League playoff semifinals at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.

The Frontiers advanced to the Japan X Bowl for the seventh straight season. They will face the Panasonic Impulse on Dec. 16 at Tokyo Dome for the league title.

The Impulse beat the Obic Seagulls 24-14 at Expo Memorial Stadium in the day’s other semifinal to advance to the X League championship game for the first time since 2015.

Takagi, making his second start of the season in place of injured Michael Birdsong, completed 12 of 20 for 122 yards. Birdsong is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

“Our offensive line and running backs were well-prepared for this game and they let me make plays,” Takagi said. “Even when the Finies defense played tight man-to-man coverage, I could believe my receivers would beat them. Our defense also held the Finies well, so I tried to not break the game.”

The Frontiers got things started with Grant’s 70-yard rush on the opening play, which helped Takagi hit Teruaki Clark Nakamura with a 7-yard scoring pass two plays later.

On the following possession, Takagi went 5-for-5 on a 63-yard, seven-play scoring drive. Motoki Yoshida kicked a 48-yard field goal with 7:42 remaining in the second quarter for a 17-0 halftime lead.

The Finies finally answered when Cody Sokol connected with Hiroki Takao on a 7-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half (kick failed), cutting the margin to 17-6.

Grant, however, grabbed momentum as he ran 32 yards on the first play of the next possession and fellow running back Dereck Akira Williams moved the chains to Elecom’s 11. Then Takagi delivered a 11-yard strike to Yoshimasa Iwamatsu to end a three-play, 69-second drive.

Takagi added another touchdown pass with 10:30 remaining to put the game out of reach.

“Our defense shut them down early in the game and the offense played as we planed,” Fujitsu’s first-year head coach Hiroshi Yamamoto said. “We modified our game plan a bit so that Takagi feels comfortable to play.

“Panasonic has improved throughout the season. We played them before (Fujitsu’s 45-27 win on Sept. 7), but it gives no hints against them. We start making a new plan against them soon.”