Japan: The 76th Rice Bowl pits the reigning champion Fujitsu Frontiers against the Panasonic Impulse

By Aidan Wohl

The stage is set for the 76th annual Rice Bowl, featuring the two No.1 regular season teams, the Panasonic Impulse, and the reigning champion Fujitsu Frontiers.

These two teams have history, having faced each other in last year’s Rice Bowl with the Frontiers edging the Impulse 24-18 to win their sixth championship since 2014.

Frontiers assistant coach Keven Lightner:

“The atmosphere in the Tokyo Dome for the Rice Bowl is awesome. Even though the Japanese people are still learning American football they have great loyalty to their teams and enjoy athletic contests. Fujitsu and Panasonic are two great companies with many employees who have great pride and enjoy competing against each other.”

Powerhouse Fujitsu has had Panasonic’s number in recent history, defeating the Impulse in four of its last five matchups. The last time the Impulse took down the Frontiers was Nov. 12, 2021.

Fujitsu QB Tsubasa Takagi in action in the 2022 Rice Bowl Photo: X-League

In what is poised to be an offensive shootout, key players to watch for the Frontiers will again be the big three, quarterback Tsubasa Takagi, running back Trashawn Nixon, and wide receiver Riki Matsui who has helped its offense average 46.2 points in each of its last five contests. The Impulse will lean on star quarterback Jayron Henderson, wide receiver Alfonzo Onuwar, and running backs Victor Mitchell and Watanabe Jamal.

One of the key matchups to look out for will be the duel between the two storied teams’ quarterbacks with Tsubasa Takagi for the Frontiers facing off against the Impulse’s play-caller Jaylon Henderson.

Takagi has been efficient all season whenever Fujitsu has needed him, averaging 218 passing yards and 2.6 touchdowns a game on 74% passing throughout the five-game regular season, helping his team go undefeated heading into the postseason. The Frontiers quarterback will look to continue this trend as his team aims to win its fifth-straight title in a row.

Frontiers running back Trashaun Nixon has also been a helping hand in this offense, rushing for 531 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season.

“Trashaun brings great confidence and physicality to our offense. He has speed and power and can take over games. He has shown up in the big games because we feature him more when we need him. We have lots of weapons and we tend to spread the ball around during the season. When things get tight we know we can lean on him to bring us home a victory.” Lightner said.

Panasonic QB Jaylon Henderson is the key to the Impulse’s offense Photo: X-League

Jaylon Henderson has been the Impulse’s sparkplug offensively in his first year as quarterback for Panasonic. The former Boise State standout has shined in the air, averaging 186 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game in the regular season, leading the team to a No. 1 seed and an undefeated record in the Group B conference. Panasonic’s success against a stout Fujitsu team that has only allowed 12 points in its last two games will fall heavily on the shoulders of Henderson come Tuesday’s 76th annual Rice Bowl.

“Panasonic has always been good on the defense line. They have great depth so they can rotate and stay fresh. They are strong and athletic and play very hard the entire game. Fujitsu Oline vs Panasonic Dline always a great battle,” Lightner said.

Kickoff for the 76th Rice Bowl is set of 23:00 (Japan Standard Time)

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