Japan’s X League, Pivotal Weekend in Super 9

The second weekend of action in the Super 9 stage of Japan’s X League produced two lopsided wins and a tense victory as the Nojima Sagamihara Rise clinched a berth in the semifinals while the Obic Seagulls and Lixil Deers came away with victories to stay alive.

Obic Seagulls (5-2) 52 –  Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers 9 (4-2)


After a few weeks in a slump, limping into the Super 9 stage, the Obic Seagulls have been transformed into the team that opened the season. With quarterback Shun Sugawara continuing his fine form from last week the Seagulls overwhelmed  the  Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers to finish the second stage with a 5-2 record. This means they still have a shot at making the semifinals.

Obic dipped deep into the playbook as even offensive tackle Kai Malaiva got into the ball handling action, taking the ball as the upback in punt formation and rumbling 17 yards for a first down. Takuya Furutani and Tataeru Nakanishi ran for touchdowns and defensive end B.J. Beatty, leaping to block a pass, caught the ball—one of Obic’s four interceptions—and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown.

Lixil Deers 35 (5-1) – Elecom Kobe Finies 8 (3-4)


The Lixil Deers kept their semifinal hopes alive in continuing to play the way they finished off the divisional round. Quarterback Shohei Kato found the rainy conditions to his liking throwing for 263 yards and four touchdowns. Completing 18 of 28 passes, Kato threw a touchdown pass to Naoki Maeda (his first of two) on the very first drive to set the tone.

The Deers took a 28-6 lead into the break and eased off in the second half, playing conservative football. The lone touchdown came from Kento Suzuki who caught a 32 yard touchdown pass from Kato.

Nojima Sagamihara Rise 14 (5-1) – Asahi Beer Silver Star 7 (4-3), OT


Rookie Yuki Tomizawa scored both touchdowns, the second on a 16-yard run in overtime, and Nojima (5-1) prevailed in a defense-dominated clash with Asahi Beer at rainy Fujitsu Kawasaki Stadium to clinch a place in the final four for the first time since 2012.

With the Rise’s defense keeping Asahi quarterback Mason Mills, the league’s leading passer, in check (9 of 25 for 80 yards) the offense did enough for the nail-biting win. Tomizawa had a game to remember as he also scored the Rise’s lone touchdown in regulation, a 1-yard plunge set up by linebacker Yoshiki Tanaka’s interception at the Asahi Beer 35.

Last semifinal berth up for grabs

This sets up an interesting final weekend. There are myriad permutations to compute. The Fujitsu Frontiers, Panasonic Impulse and  Nojima Sagamihara Rise have all qualified to play in the final four and all three have a chance to finish first. One berth remains and either the Lixil Deers or Obic Seagulls will grab it. But Lixil cannot finish higher than second and Obic no better than fourth.

The Deers (5-1) take on Fujitsu who have clinched a semifinal spot (6-0) and if they win they will qualify. If they lose the Seagulls (5-2) have a chance to get in depending on the score and the other games.

IBM Big Blue (4-2) will face the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers and even with a win, they still may have no chance to qualify after their loss to Obic last week.

Then the undefeated Impulse (6-0) square off against the surging Nojima Sagamihara Rise (5-1). Since both teams have already made it to the semifinals,  this game will determine home field advantage in the semifinal.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.