Japan: Week 2 of X League’s Pearl Bowl produces surprises

The second week of the 2017 Pearl Bowl is in the books, and while there were no upsets, there were definitely a handful of surprises. All Mitsubishi Lions shocked their opponents and fans alike with a convincing win over Fujitsu Xerox Minerva AFC. Most suspected the Lions to come out on top, but few expected their offensive explosion. The biggest surprise of the weekend, however, was Meiji Yasuda Penta Ocean Pirates’ being forced into using starting tight end / kicker under center. The one-dimensional offense didn’t trouble the Silver Stars for long as they cruised to an easy victory. Nojima Rise put the X League on notice by thrashing their opponents, making their matchup this week with the Fujitsu Frontiers “The Game of the Week”.

All Mitsubishi Lions  38 – Fujitsu Xerox Minerva 7

The two teams kept it close early on in the second Pearl Bowl game played on May 4th. The Lions had a 10 point edge at the half, but distanced themselves in the second period, winning 38-7. This was the sixth game of the X League’s 2017 Pearl Bowl and the only game so far where the mercy rule* was not used.

All Mitsubishi did however run 25 more plays than their opponents and gained 469 yards on offense to Minerva’s 95.

Despite 300 yards combined through the air, a windy night meant there were five recorded INTs as well three other interception opportunities dropped.
*In the Pearl Bowl if a team is down by 50 points at half time or 30 points at the end of the third period a running clock is implemented in the fourth quarter.

Asahi Beer Silver Star 28 – Meiji Yasuda Penta Ocean Pirates 3

Asahi Beer opened their Pearl Bowl with an easy 28-3 victory over a Penta Ocean Pirates team that unveiled an offense that started out as novel, but quickly degraded into one-dimensional futility. QB Ryosuke Nishizawa is the only QB on the Pirates’ roster; however (despite standing on the sidelines in uniform) being injured meant all snaps under center went to tight end Hiroyuki Akatsu who handed the ball off or kept it himself on every play until halfway through the third quarter.

You read that right, the Pirates attempted zero passes in the first half. The Pirates’ first drive looked promising as they marched down the field on a ten minute, 16 play drive that befuddled the Silver Star defense and resulted in a field goal. The field goal was kicked by none other than today’s makeshift wildcat operator, Hiroyuki Akatsu.

Silver Star quickly made adjustments to their defensive scheme after the first drive and kept the Pirates from ever getting close to scoring again. Asahi had an unorthodox approach to this game as well, as every kick off they attempted was an onside kick. They fooled the Pirates on the first kick and using their extra possession went up two scores. They continued to kick onside kicks for the duration of the game, even when they were up by four scores.

The Pirates never adjusted their formation, choosing instead to line up in a traditional return formation and increase the possibility of a successful Silver Star onside kick. Luckily for the Pirates, only the first kick was.

Nojima Rise 64 – Metropolitan Police Eagles 0

Nojima Sagamihara Rise made a statement in their Pearl Bowl opener, pounding the Metropolitan Police Eagles 64-0. The first play from scrimmage was a pick six by Rise DB Tai Kawaishi and from there Nojima never looked back. Devin Gardner led the Rise offense to four touchdowns on five drives looking poised in the pocket and only missing one mid-range throw that was a sure-fire touchdown.

The focal point of today’s blitzkrieg, however, was starting running back Takashi Miyako who scored three rushing touchdowns including one from 63 yards out. The elusive back only ran the ball four times, but he made each count managing 76 yards of offense.

The Rise defense, looked impressive throughout especially on an Eagles mishandled snap that was taken back 65 yards by linebacker Riku Arima. While punter Nanami Ariwa only had one boot on the day, kicker Kouhei Ichimori showcased an accurate leg going seven of eight on point after tries and kicking a 34 yard field goal on the Rise’s only stalled drive of the first half.

Tokyo Gas Creators 41 -Bulls 21

Never mind that the Creators jumped out in front of the Bulls 17-0 with five minutes left in the first. Pay no attention to the score which was never close as Tokyo Gas gained 41 points to the Bulls’ 21. This game wasn’t about the scores, it was about the energy and intensity these two teams fought with against each other.

This was an absolute slug fest, a game that constantly blurred the line between solid play and penalty. Normally when there are four turnovers in a game, including three egregious interceptions in the same quarter, and eight penalties you would call that game sloppy; but, sloppiness is not the proper word for this game. Physical is the only word that can give this game any justice. Whether it was a great play or a bone-headed mistake, these players laid their bodies out for their teammates. The two teams went home battered, one went home beaten, but both should hold their heads high.

Next set of games on May 20 and May 21:

IBM Big Blue vs. Tokyo Gas Creators
Lixil Deers vs. All Mitsubishi Lions
Obic Seagulls vs Asahi Silver Star

Game of the Week

Fujitsu Frontiers vs. Nojima Sagamihara Rise