Japan: Fujitsu Frontiers edge Obic Seagulls to advance to Rice Bowl

The Fujitsu Frontiers got a measure of revenge for last year’s championship game loss to the Obic Seagulls Sunday at Yokohama Stadium after beating the Seagulls 17-10 in the XLeague semifinals.

With the win, Fujitsu moves on to the Rice Bowl, now the official title game in Japan, for the eighth year in a row.

As was usual in games between these two teams, it was a hard-fought affair. Obic did not make it easy.

The Seagulls got on the scoreboard first after forcing Fujitsu to a three and out on the game’s first possession. Behind the running of Tomoki Chimura, Yudai Arakitake and Maki Mochizuki, Obic reached the Frontiers five yard line from where kicker Yamazaki Joji found the range with a 22-yard field goal.

The Frontiers responded on the next drive with quarterback Tsubasa Takagi moving his team down to the Obic 18 yard line after converting a third and long on a pass to wide receiver Junpei Yimoto. Running back Trashawn Nixon then powered his way into the end zone to give Fujitsu a 7-3 lead.

Fujitsu Frontiers WR Matsui Sukemi #85 scored 1 TD Photo: M.I. Planning

Tagaki showed his poise in the second quarter under relentless pressure from the Obic front seven, advancing the Frontiers down to the Obic five yard line. It looked like he threw a touchdown strike to wide receiver Matsui Sukemi but the speedy receiver was ruled out of bounds at the back of the end zone so Fujitsu settled for a field goal, increasing their lead to 10-3

The Seagulls responded on the very next possession which opened with a brilliant 42-yard kickoff return from Yuto Nishimura. Then, quarterback Jimmy Lockley, who had returned to the starting lineup for the first time in three games, hit 6’5″, 230 pound tight end Holden Huff for a 36-yard gain down to the Frontiers 13-yard line. Running back Mochizuki finished the drive, romping into the end zone to tie the game up at 10-10 which is how the first half ended.

Obic Seagulls kick returner Yuto Nishimura #84 Photo: MI Planning

On the Frontiers second drive of the second half, Tagaki marched his team on a 67 yard drive, which included a 20 yard reception by  Samajie Grant, capping it with a 19 yard touchdown strike to Sukemi to break the tie and give Fujitsu a 17-10 lead their would not relinquish.

Defenses took over after that and neither offense could score. Obic came close with under five minutes to go as with the ball on the Frontiers’ seven yard line on a fourth and goal, Lockley gambled but overthrew Huff in the end zone. A final, last gasp heave from Lockley with a couple of seconds on the clock was picked off in the end zone by Tokumo Hiroki, sending the defending champions home.

The Frontiers will now face the Panasonic Impulse in the Rice Bowl on January 3.

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