The last two teams to win the X Bowl in Japan, the Fujitsu Frontiers and Panasonic Impulse, square off Monday, December 16 at the Tokyo Dome in X Bowl XXXIII.
A crowd of upwards of 30,000 is expected to witness what promises to be the best X League championship game in many years.
The Frontiers are winners of four of the last five Japanese titles and would be aiming for their fifth in a row were it not for the Impulse who won the championship in 2015, beating Fujitsu in the process.
In other words, the last team to defeat Fujitsu in the title game.
Only one team has ever four-peated in the history of the X Bowl, and that was the Obic Seagulls, who won the Japanese championship every year from 2010 to 2013.
The Frontiers enter the game as favorites but without the services of starting quarterback Michael Birdsong, they will have a tougher time. Birdsong suffered a season-ending injury late in the year and did not play in the 31-13 playoff win over the Elecom Kobe Finies.
Still, with his backup, Tsubasa Takagi behind center, the Frontiers remain a formidable opponent. Statistically, Takagi is the most efficient quarterback in the league. He has the best completion percentage, 70%, of all quarterbacks, throwing for 649 yards in a backup role in six games, and has the highest overall QB rating. He is a veteran and has been here before.
Samergy Grant has replaced X League 2018 MVP Trashaun Nixon as the league’s top rusher. Nixon, who was a record-setting, one-man wrecking crew, underwent season-ending surgery after going down with a knee injury during the Pearl Bowl spring tournament. Grant led the league in rushing in the six games he played averaging just under 100 yards per game.
Fujitsu defensive back Al Rilwan Adeyemi has been here before and has anchored a defense that has captured four titles. This season, the defense allowed an average of 12 points a game, including the semifinal game. If the offense, led by Takagi, can come anywhere close to their average of 46 points a game, the Frontiers could well be picking out another ring.
Panasonic have been in this game before, as the underdog, and won it all. Can they pull it off again?
For the Impulse, quarterback Anthony Lawrence leads a balanced attack. He is the second leading passer in the league having thrown for 1,482 yards and eight touchdowns. In the semifinal win over Obic, he threw for 155 yards and one touchdown., that one to Taiji Koyama while his top receiver is Tatsuya Tonhana who had 30 receptions for 420 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season while Daniel Wise has 359 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Victor Jamal Mitchell is the second leading rusher in Japan with 537 yards and is always dangerous. In the semifinal win, he had 145 yards rushing and was the workhorse for Panasonic.
In the only game between these two during the regular season, Fujitsu came out on top 45-27, but that was with Birdsong at quarterback. Can the Impulse defense get to Takagi? How much of a role will Grant for Fujitsu and Mitchell for the Impulse, have in this game?
This could be the most closely fought X Bowl since 2015.
The game is being broadcast on Japan’s NHK network and will not be livestreamed.