Japan X Bowl 30 Features Battle Of Unbeatens As Fujitsu Frontiers Face Obic Seagulls

The 30th Japan X Bowl kicks off at 7 pm on Dec 12th at Tokyo Dome. Unbeaten Fujitsu Frontiers face Obic Seagulls (also 8-0) in a repeat of the 2013 final.

Despite the rising level of play and increasing parity in the X League over the past few seasons, Monday’s game will continue a run of eight years with one or both clubs reaching the final.

Fujitsu will be making their fourth appearance in a row but have a dismal 1-6 overall record in the big game. Obic are back for the first time since their own four straight titles from 2010 to 2013. The Narashino-based outfit always seems to step it up on the big stage and their eight championships is a record in Japan. In fact their only loss in the X-Bowl came 21 years ago, back when they were still known as Recruit.

Despite that however, Fujitsu go into the final as slight favorites. In a Facebook poll of Japanese fans, 51% picked the Frontiers to win. On Twitter it was 57%. The semi-final results probably account for that edge with Fujitsu putting up 28 points against a fearsome IBM pass-rush and Obic only overcoming Panasonic 9-6. Monsoon-like conditions in Osaka for that game however played a large part in such a low score with Seagulls DE BJ Beatty describing the scene as “movie-like”.

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Fujitsu Frontieris QB Colby Cameron

Obic’s Jerry Neuheisel struggled in the rain but the rookie QB has been showing more and more command of the offense as the season has progressed.

On going up against the Frontiers:

“It’s my first year but as soon as I got here everyone said Fujitsu Fujitsu Fujitsu so for me it’s exciting to finally get a chance to play them”

The ex UCLA man will face his biggest challenge in the X League to date however as, according to Frontiers DB Al Rilwan Adeyemi, the Frontiers have “playmakers at all levels”.

That starts up front where Trashaun Nikon jointly led the league with four sacks (for minus 52 yards). Nixon hasn’t just been a force in the passing game though. His speed sideline to sideline made it difficult for any team to gain ground with outside runs.

If Obic have to air it out they won’t find the going much easier as CB Adeyemi also led the league, with three INTs returned for 99 yards and a TD. The University of Diego State product plays with intensity. That baller style saw him break a tooth and get concussed early in the semi final but he is is going through the protocol and is confident of being back for the big showdown.

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Obic Seagull QB Jerry Neuheisel

One unique challenge that the Frontiers back end will have to deal with though is Obic’s heavy use of two (and sometimes three) very different quarterbacks in a game. Neuheisel shares playing time with Shun Sugawara and Takushiro Hata

When Fujitsu has the ball it’ll be up to Obic pass-rushers Beatty and veteran Kevin Jackson to try and slow down Colby Cameron. The former Carolina Panther has been nothing if not clutch this season. His final drive to get the Frontiers into position to kick the game winning FG in the semi final was a thing of beauty.

“When that guy gets in a rhythm it’s hard to stop” according to Beatty “[We have to] just try and limit him as best we can. You can’t completely stop him [but] you can’t let him completely take over.”

Cameron’s most dangerous weapon is probably wideout Clark Nakamura. The Nihon University man isn’t the tallest but has been making spectacular leaping plays all season. Apart from his ability to get up, strong hands and a laser-like focus mean even with two or three defenders around him in tight coverage he usually comes down with the ball.

Beatty has confidence in his teammates though and senses something different this season.

“For our defense [in the Panasonic game] there was just one point where we clicked. It was almost a moment of who we are as a team. I don’t know if last year if we were that situation what happened would have happened. Guys fought to the end. Everybody was locked in.”

The 30th X Bowl is a fascinating matchup given added intrigue by the fact the Frontiers and Seagulls didn’t meet in the regular season. Monday night is likely to see a game that comes down to the wire. Will Obic extend its win streak in the final or will Fujitsu step up on the big stage?

Adeyemi said both teams have shown the ability to come through adversity.

“I think at the end of the day in football you have to find a way to just strap it up and finish. Both teams in the semi final did a good job of finishing and that’s why you have the two best teams playing in the X Bowl”

John Gunning
John Gunning is a Tokyo based sports writer. He is a sumo commentator for NHK and covers MMA and American football for national and international publications.
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