Kawasaki – The Obic Seagulls extended their 2020 season and punched their ticket to the Japan X Bowl after an extraordinary ending in their season-finale victory over the Panasonic Impulse on Saturday.
Trailing by one point with less than 20 seconds left, Panasonic advanced to the Obic 1-yard line. But quarterback Anthony Lawrence fumbled the ball on a run and Obic linebacker Keita Naruse recovered it before the Seagulls ran down the clock to seal the 35-34 win.
“It’ll be one of the games that I’ll never forget in my long football career,” Obic head coach Makoto Ohashi said after the nail-biter at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.
The Seagulls seized the pace early, taking a 21-7 lead by the end of the first quarter and entering halftime up 28-17.
But the second half belonged to the Impulse, who jumped ahead 31-28 when Lawrence hooked up with wide receiver Takato Kido on an 8-yard pass and made a two-point conversion late in the third quarter.
Panasonic widened its advantage with a field goal with about five minutes remaining in the game.
The Seagulls retook the lead when quarterback Jimmy Laughrea hit wideout Shingo Maeda on a pass, with four minutes on the clock following a successful extra-point attempt.
Looking to clinch a second consecutive X Bowl berth, Panasonic began its final drive on its own 25, converting four first downs to approach the endzone. But the effort was for naught after the fumble by Lawrence.
“That was an exciting game,” Seagulls defensive lineman Byron Beatty Jr. said. “I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything more entertaining than that. Playing defense on the 1-yard line, so many seconds left, there’s still the game-winning play to get the ball and recover it… Man, it felt so good, so good.”
The 32-year-old University of Colorado alum added: “We’ve been practicing since June for possibly four games and it came down to the 1-yard line and to recover the ball… it felt so good. Months of work just worked out for us.”
The costly fumble aside, Lawrence showcased an exceptional performance, throwing for 331 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
For the Seagulls, Laughrea racked up 237 yards with three TDs in the air and wide receiver Aruto Nishimura caught for 112 yards and two scores.
Saturday’s game was just the second of the season for the Seagulls, who were placed in Block B along with Panasonic and the Tokyo Gas Creators in an X League season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obis will now head to Tokyo Dome, where they will face the four-team Block A winner in the X Bowl on Dec. 15. The Narashino, Chiba Prefecture-based team fell to the Fujitsu Frontiers 16-3 in the championship game’s 2016 edition.
The winner of the X Bowl will advance to the Rice Bowl against the collegiate Koshien Bowl champions on Jan. 3.
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