The latest edition of the Kanto Classico, and just as with last year’s playoff matchup, a place in the Japan X Bowl is at stake.
These two teams played arguably the game of the season back in week five when Fujitsu downed the Seagulls 31-28. The biggest difference between then and now is Fujitsu will have a fully healthy Trashaun Nixon ready to go. Clearly hobbled in that regular season match Nixon still managed to rush for 65 yards and two scores. The All-X linebacker turned league rushing record holder has had a spectacular year, but he is far from the only threat the two-time defending champions possess. Rookie QB Michael Birdsong has shown more and more command as the season has progressed. His on-field relationship with Junpei Yoshimoto has prevented defenses from focusing on Clark Nakamura. Both wideouts had 23 grabs on the season. Throw in WR Sei Kyo, TE Yuji Mizuno and Japan’s best offensive line and it really is a sweet situation for any QB. To make matters even worse for teams facing Frontiers, Birdsong can fairly move himself and good luck to any DB trying to take down the 195cm 110kg signal caller once he takes off.
Speaking of mobile QBs….Obic’s Skyler Howard actually had more rushing yards than all but four RBs in 2018. The rookie from West Virginia is the XLeague version of Mitch Trubisky. Just as likely to heave the ball 60 yards down the field as scramble for a 20-yard gain, Howard has a fiery first-into–the-breach personality that has given Seagulls some much needed bite on that side of the ball this year. They’ll need maximum production from Howard and Co. on Sunday if they are to overcome Fujitsu. The 31 points Obic gave up to Fujitsu in October was the most they have conceded all year.
The Seagulls boosted an already tough secondary when they brought in Bronson Beatty but it’s the former Nichidai man’s brother B.J. and the front seven that will be key. Frontiers OC Pierre Ingram loves springing surprises, and with the players he has at his disposal anything is possible. Beatty, Kevin Jackson et al are veterans so they won’t be easily fooled but in a game that is sure to be played flat out from the start the flip side of that experience is how difficult it can be to keep the pace up late in the game. Frontiers are no slouch on defense either with Joe Mathis improving by the week.
The Al Rilwan Adeyemi led secondary will be salivating at the idea of facing a QB not afraid to test them. Hopefully not on the initial snap though for Obic’s sake. If there is one truism in the XLeague it’s don’t through at #40 on the first play. Last year this game finished 7-0. There is virtually no chance of that happening again. All signs point to a shootout. Frontiers are the favorites and rightly so but it’s hard to shake the feeling an upset is brewing. It’s a tough one to call but as Granma used to say, when in doubt always choose what will get you the biggest reaction on social media.
Prediction: 30 – 28 (Seagulls)