Japan: Fujitsu Frontiers, Panasonic Impulse dominate in semifinals, advance to Rice Bowl for 2nd straight year

By Aidan Wohl

Japan’s X-League semifinals offered one expected result and another surprise.

The Fujitsu Frontiers remained unbeaten in 2022 after thrashing the Elecom Kobe Finies while the Panasonic Impulse put on an unexpected display of offensive power in manhandling the Obic Seagulls.

Fujitsu Frontiers 39 – Elecom Kobe Finies 21

The reigning champion Fujitsu Frontiers dominated the Elecom Kobe Fines in the semifinal round and will make their sixth consecutive Championship Game appearance.

The first half was all the Frontiers, scoring at will, highlighted by a Tsubasa Takagi 43-yard pass to Riki Matsui, a Trashawn Nixon 81-yard scoring run, and a Matsui six-yard touchdown, to put Fujitsu up a convincing 26-0 at halftime.

However, despite the commanding deficit, the Finies managed to fight their way back into the game in the second half, with star quarterback David Pindell, who struggled in the first half with only 28 yards, making play after play—including a 54-yard deep shot to wide receiver Devin Phelps and a six-yard strike to receiver Taiki Uchida for their team’s first points of the contest.

This pushed the momentum for the Finies offensively, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Frontiers’ juggernaut offensive attack, with Takagi shredding the defense and finding Matsui for his second score of the game—beating the brakes off of the defense.

All in all, the Frontiers were too much to handle for the Finies, scoring on all of their offensive possessions, defeating the Elecom 39-21, reaching the Rice Bowl once again in hopes of winning their fifth consecutive championship in a rematch from last season against the Panasonic Impulse.

Panasonic Impulse 30 – Obic Seagulls 10

After defeating the Seagulls 13-7 in a tight game during the regular season, the Impulse proved Saturday that they still had Obic’s number in every element of the game, dominating the historic Seagulls 30-10, advancing to the Rice Bowl for the second straight season.

Neither team was able to find the endzone in the first quarter but were able to execute well in the air and on the ground. With Impulse quarterback Jaylon Henderson hitting Alfonso Onuwar, and playmaker Watanabe Jamal finding holes, Panasonic was able to strike first earning an early 3-0 lead.

Quarterback Jason Smith and the Seagulls were able to answer right back with a drive of their own, striking tight end Holden Huff and wide receiver Aruto Nishimura to set up a field goal that would tie the contest.

AFter that, Obic was to break the plane of the endzone first, with Huff scoring a nine-yard touchdown.

The Seagulls lost a lot of its momentum after Smith went down with an apparent injury before halftime. He was replaced by the inexperienced Masayuki Kobayashi, who was unable to produce much and was exposed by the overwhelming Panasonic defense in the second half.

The Impulse were able to take advantage of the loss of Obic’s signal caller, as the defense, led by defensive back Taishi Seike and linebacker Jaboree Williams, forced multiple turnovers from Kobayashi. These takeaways would lead to better field position opportunities that would help Henderson and Panasonic extend its lead to an eventual 30-10 victory and a chance for redemption against Fujitsu in the 76nd Rice Bowl, after falling short 24-18 in last year’s championship game.

Photo credit: X-League

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