The Obic Seagulls made their long-awaited return to the X League summit Tuesday night, pecking the American football league’s current dynasty off its pedestal in a thriller that came down to the final play.

The Seagulls, based in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, dethroned the four-time reigning champion Fujitsu Frontiers in a dramatic 13-7 victory in the Japan X Bowl at Tokyo Dome, reports Kaz Nagatsuka.

Among the celebrating Seagulls was Tatsuaki Shojima, a trailblazer in Japanese football circles. Last month, Nagatsuka spoke to Shojima — believed to be the first player of full Japanese descent to compete for an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school — about returning to Japan after missing out on the pros. Things may not have worked out as he would have liked in the U.S., but Shojima was upbeat. “I’m optimistic, I’m looking forward to the future games,” he told Nagatsuka. Looks like that optimism paid off.

Obic Seagulls vs. Fujitsu Frontiers | OBIC SEAGULLS
Obic Seagulls vs. Fujitsu Frontiers | OBIC SEAGULLS

The NFL has still never had a Japanese player, but that’s something that Toshiki Sato is hoping to change. With instruction from a former pro under his belt, Sato is now confident that his kicks are NFL-grade. Now he just has to prove it with the Aviators in The Spring League, a development league for the North American pro circuits.

“Objectively speaking, my kicks have become on par with NFL players, so it’s now to show them, draw attention from the scouts and get invited by a team,” Sato told Nagatsuka in a recent interview.

Could Sato be The One to break through? Perhaps. And you can thank the bitter memory of a crucial missed field goal in the 2015 Koshien Bowl for the fact he’s still trying. “Had I made the field goal, I would have been satisfied with my football career and be working as a businessman now,” he explained to the JT’s Hiroshi Ikezawa back in June.