Japan’s Green Bowl sees American QB return in dominant win.

The Green Bowl and Green Bowl Challenge preseason tournaments for teams in central and western Japan kicked off over Japan’s Golden Week holiday. Both are four team events with the first series of matches being semi-finals and the second a final plus third / fourth place playoff.

The Green Bowl 2017 kicked off under blue skies with defending champion Panasonic Impulse sweeping aside the As One Black Eagles 49-10. Impulse dominated all but a few minutes of the game with the result never being in doubt.

New Impulse QB American Benjamin Anderson, who stands 192cm tall, took advantage of that height easily seeing over the line to connect down the middle to wide receiver Takato Kido for 44 yards and then to see an opening and take off on a 31-yard run. One play later the Impulse were in the end zone. After forcing a three and out on the ensuing series, they continued the offensive show of force getting positive yards on nearly every play.

Anderson (who used to play for Nojima Sagamihara Rise) was dominant throughout and Panasonic’s defense continuously overwhelmed the Black Eagles offensive line, frequently breaking though to harass quarterback Ryota Yabe. The game was already well out of reach in the fourth quarter when special teams did their part with a punt that rolled down near the goal line.

In the second game of the afternoon with a warm afternoon breeze drifting though Oji Stadium, the Elecom Kobe Finies held on for a 10-7 win over the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers.
Fans who came to get a look at the Challengers’ newest foreign import, QB Alex Niznak, saw him in action, though not under center. Still waiting on a visa he was limited to roaming the sidelines, enthusiastically calling plays while wearing a headset over his blonde crew cut.

With lists of plays, both on his arm and hanging from his belt, Niznak flashed hand signals to the offense and shouted encouragement from the edge of the field. Unfortunately for the Challengers, his flurry of activity made little difference on the field. Recognizing this himself he edged ever closer to the action and nearly had to be restrained from walking on the field to take over.

After the game, flashing a charismatic smile Niznak said, “We can play better but at least it didn’t rain.”

Starting quarterback for the Challengers, Yusaku Miyagi, demonstrated why they need Niznak on the field with two interceptions and a general inability to get into a rhythm. The Challengers started the game going three and out on three of their first four possessions, and followed that with interceptions on the next two.

Former Iowa Hawkeye and Finies DB Sean Draper hauled in the second of the two interceptions which led to a field goal. Draper said,

“It felt good. Overall the game was good. We just need to execute defensively in the red zone.”

Stopping Asahi was made easier by their eight penalties for 83 yards and problems on special teams.

Impulse meets the Elecom Kobe Finies in the Green Bowl final at 2:30 pm on May 21. The As One Black Eagles will get a shot at third place at 11:30 am on the same day, going up against the Asahi Soft Drink Challengers.

Club Hawkeye continued their winning ways against rival Sidewinders in a wet Green Bowl Challenge semi-final in Kobe. This was a rematch of the game that saw the Sidewinders relegated to X2 and Club Hawkeye promoted to X1 at the end of last season. The game also featured former Panasonic Impulse QB, Yuma Nagayoshi, in his return to the league as WR and return specialist for Club Hawkeye.

Nagayoshi set the tone for the day on the opening kickoff, selling a fake lateral with a jump and sweeping overhand motion, before tucking the ball and slashing ahead for 22 yards. The Sidewinders would spend much of the day trying to keep up with Nagayoshi, who had three receptions for more than 10 yards and ran a punt back 62 yards for a touchdown. Nagayoshi said of the touchdown, “We used good technique as a team, I got early blocks and I’m happy but it’s not just me.”

It wasn’t just Nagayoshi. The whole Club Hawkeye offense was running smoothly throughout the day despite the rain and wind. Their balanced attack gained 150 yards on 30 carries and 178 yards on 15 of 29 passing.

The Sidewinders generally had trouble getting the ball out of the backfield, gaining a meager 13 yards on 25 carries. It wasn’t a much better show in the air where their QBs combined for 106 yards on 10 of 26 passing but were also sacked four times.

Club Hawkeye DL Kohei Oya had two of those sacks and Tetsuo Yoshida did his part with a sack for an 18-yard loss in the fourth quarter. That brought up fourth and long for the Sidewinders. Their punt was blocked and the ball bounced to DB Kei Kawasaki who ran it back 25 yards for the score.

With their win over Sidewinders, Club Hawkeye showed again they are the better team and deserved their promotion to X1.

In the last of the first series of games (and the only one played outside Kobe) Nagoya Cyclones showed the difference in class between most X1 teams and those in X2 with a comprehensive 27-3 win over Golden Fighters. Nagoya scored TDs in the air, on the ground and on an 87-yard punt return by Shoichi Matsubara. Matsubara also finished the day’s scoring in the third quarter with an 11-yard TD reception.

Golden Fighters found it hard to get any kind of momentum going and were limited to 69 yards of total offense. Their two FGs were scored by Yuya Adachi and one was a 50-yearder. That’s something you don’t see often in Japan, especially in the lower divisions were few teams have specialized kickers. Indeed Adachi is listed on a roster as a DB, which makes the distance all the more impressive

All four teams from the Green Bowl Challenge will play at Oji stadium on May 20th in the final round of games. The third / fourth place playoff between Golden Fighters and Sidewinders is first up at 11am followed by the final at between Cyclones and Club Hawkeye at 1:40pm.

Inside Sport: Japan
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