IFAF U20 World Junior Championships: Team Japan rolled over Australia to set up semifinal matchup with USA

Japan set up a mouthwatering IFAF U20 World Junior Championships semifinal against the United States with a convincing 50-6 win over Australia at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton.

MVP Takemi Minobe set Japan on their way with the opening touchdown as he crashed into the end zone behind the force of his blockers, though Japan had been made to work for their first score. A promising opening drive had been halted by a spectacular interception by Australia’s Xavier Kerin.

Taisei Urushibara added a one-yard touchdown rush before a safety opened Japan’s lead to 16-0 early in the third quarter. Tight end Ibuki Yahagi reeled in a 17-yard touchdown from Nobuaki Kobayashi to open what proved to be an unassailable 23-0 halftime advantage.

“We did everything well in our preparation and I thought we played very well,” said Japan head coach Makoto Ohashi. “I think the offensive and defensive line were the guys that really performed. We are the smallest team in size, but they did a really good job and they challenged with bravery, and I have to applaud their performance.”

MVP Minobe added:

“The line did a really good job of blocking so for me I was just running behind them. I really feel like I can do better and I hope that I can do that against the United States in the next game.”

Touchdowns from Zen Kashima with a 29-yard reception from Kobiashi and a pair of rushes from Shungo Gotoh opened the lead to 43 points before Australia got on the board when Ben Heath raced away with a reception that he turned into an 80-yard touchdown. Makato Uchikawa completed Japan’s scoring with a 5-yard fourth quarter rush.

“This is the actually lowest score that Japan has ever had against an Australian team, so we’ll take that as a sort of positive,” said Outback head coach Mitch Woellner. “We saw a lot of grit and determination off the back of difficult circumstances against a very good Japanese team who are very well coached and lightning fast. Their run game is so effective. We did a good job of stopping the pass, but if you can’t stop the run as well, you can’t win the game.”

Australia’s MVP was their touchdown scorer Heath, who said:

“It’s just great to be here. A lot of us made a few mental mistakes but it’s nothing we can’t come back for. As a team performance we could have done better and that’s more important than an individual award.”

Australia will now battle on Wednesday against a spirited Panama team that scored two touchdowns against the United States, kickoff in Clarke Stadium at 11am.

Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is currently working with IFAF in a PR capacity. He recently covered Super Bowl LVII as a member of the NFL PR team as he has done for 20+ years. He has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North