Japan: 75th Rice Bowl pits fierce rivals as Panasonic Impulse face the Fujitsu Frontiers

The Japanese championship game, formerly the X Bowl but now the Rice Bowl, set for Monday, January 3 at the Tokyo Dome, pits the unbeaten Panasonic Impulse against the 6-1 Fujitsu Frontiers.

This may be the most anticipated title game in years as Panasonic handed the Frontiers their only setback of the season, a 26-20 loss, and only regular season loss since 2017.

Panasonic’s last appearance in the championship game was in 2015 when they beat the Frontiers for the title. Fujitsu have won four of the last six XLeague titles (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018) but reached the final every year since 2013.

The Impulse are led by quarterback Anthony Lawrence who threw four touchdown passes in the 38-31 semifinal win over IBM Big Blue, the last two in the fourth quarter after trailing 31-24. Running back Victor Mitchell anchors the offense and is just as deadly catching the ball as running with it. He rushed for 145 yards in the semifinal and with receivers such as Leonsha Fields, Takato Kido (who had 2 TDs) and Kuwata Risuke, the Panasonic offense can score in bunches. They averaged almost 39 points a game during the seven-game regular season and semifinal.

Fujitsu enters the game with the third leading offense but with perhaps the best running back in veteran Trashaun Nixon who rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown in the Frontiers 17-10 semifinal win over Obic. Quarterback Takagi Tsubasa has been behind center all season and with the return of receiver Samajie Grant who missed the regular season matchup between the two teams, Fujitsu’s offense will put pressure on the Impulse defense.

Still, Panasonic had by far the best defense in the XLeague during the regular season, led by linebacker Jaboree Williams, allowing just 60 points in seven games. Defensive back Tsuyoshi Tsuji has had a banner year and is a key to the Impulse’s secondary. However, the Big Blue’s 31 points in the semifinal, the highest point total against the Impulse this year, will have Frontiers coaches looking for those chinks.

The Fujitsu defense features defensive lineman Kyosuki Kamiyama who had three tackles and a sack in the semifinal victory over Obic. Linebacker Akira Onuki is also a key for the Frontiers as they try to keep Mitchell in check. In the secondary, All Star Al Rilwan Adeyemi will make things tough for Lawrence throwing the ball.

This game is a toss up but Fujitsu with Grant in the lineup, and years of experience in this game, might have the edge.

Game time is Monday, January 3 at 3 pm local Japanese time (1 am ET, 7 am CET)




American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!