LIVE STREAM & PREVIEW: Japan’s X-League Final Four This Weekend

Japan’s top American football league – the X-League – is down to its final four teams as 14 clubs have been eliminated in group and divisional play. The top four clubs in Japan now square off to determine the finalists who will play in the Japan X Bowl XXIX on December 15 in the Tokyo Dome.

Panasonic Impulse (7-0) v Nojima Sagamihara Rise (5-2)

Japan - X League - Dupree-Anderson - 2pic

Panasonic’s Ben Dupree and Nojima quarterback Ben Anderson

Often the team that lost the first game in a back to back series has a bit of an edge. The Panasonic Impulse are facing that situation after defeating the Rise decisively 36-0 two weeks ago in the final game of the Super 9 stage. Panasonic comes into this contest undefeated and having looked impressive all year. Running back Ben Dupree is the leading rusher in Japan so far this season, so needless to say they rely on the run game.

Nevertheless, while quarterback Tetsuo Takata has not been as prolific a passer as many others, he has a 72% completion rate and has not thrown an interception in seven games, a remarkable feat. One of the explanations could well be the play of his center, Edmond Davis from Alabama State, who many consider the best center in the X League. And another could be offensive line coach Tim Goins who has taken it upon himself to dramatically improve the play of the o-line and who was also instrumental in bringing all four imports to the team when the Impulse had none last year. The Impulse’s two other imports on defense – defensive end Carlton Jones  and cornerback Emory Polley – have made an impact this year as well.

The Nojima Sagamihara Rise have adopted a rotating quarterback scheme with Ben Anderson starting and then giving way to Kinoshita Miyabito. It has not always worked as evidenced by the shutout loss to the Impulse two weeks ago and by the hot and cold performance of the offense all season. Rookie running back Yuki Tomiwaza has been a pleasant surprise however for the Rise coaching staff so Panasonic will expect to see more of him in this game. 

The Impulse do not expect to see the same team they defeated so easily two weeks ago. Both teams knew that the game had no bearing on anything. The Nojima players will be entering this game to exact revenge on the lopsided loss and to make it to the X Bowl for the first time in their history. The last time the Impulse appeared in the final was 2010 when they lost to Obic. They last won the title in 2008.

Kickoff: Sunday November 29, 1 PM (11 PM EST Nov. 28)

Fujitsu Frontiers (7-0) v. Obic Seagulls (5-2)

Japan - X League - Cameron-Jackson - 2pic

Fujitsu quarterback Colby Cameron and Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson

The Obic Seagulls are venturing into unknown territory this weekend when they face the undefeated Fujitsu Frontiers. The seven-time X League champions will be the first team in the history of the league to qualify for the semifinals after finishing third in the divisional round.

The Obic Seagulls are no typical team however, and will be looking to beat the odds again and continue all the way to the Japan X Bowl.

Standing in the Seagulls’ way are the defending champion Frontiers.  The Frontiers whipped the Seagulls 41-7 in the final divisional round game. This will be a tall task for Obic who won who won an unprecedented four straight league championships from 2010 to 2013 before losing in last year’s semifinals to Fujitsu.

They seem to have overcome some of the problems they had and have won two straight in the Super 9 stage, looking like the cohesive unit that won all those championships. Defensive end Kevin Jackson is convinced that they have rid themselves of their demons and have returned to the basics.

“We were trying to incorporate a lot of new stuff, but in doing that, we kind of lost track of the things that we do really well. Getting back to that, as well as getting better at the new stuff. It’s looking a lot better than when the season first started.”

In the embarrassing loss to Fujitsu, the Seagulls committed five turnovers including two interceptions, one for a touchdown. According to Jackson, they will not suffer the same problems on Sunday.

The Frontiers enter this game wary but full of confidence. Quarterback Colby Cameron has been superb in his past two games completing a combined 53 of 74 passes for 602 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a score. Running back Gino Gordon is a perfect complement to Cameron’s aerial game. He led the East division in rushing averaging over eight yards a carry and in the final Super 9 game against the Lixil Deers two weeks ago he rumbled for 182 yards.

The Seagulls will likely turn to veteran signal caller Shun Sugawara who was second to Cameron in passing in the East division. In the Super 9 stage he was 34 of 52 for 409 yards and three touchdowns. Seagulls receiver Yuki Ikei will be worth watching as he played the entire German season with the Berlin Adler this year. This will be a game to watch. Will Obic’s defensive front seven, led by Jackson be able to get pressure on Cameron? Or will Gino Gordon have another field day on the ground?

These are the two most successful teams in the X League of the past five years. The Frontiers won the championship last year, while Obic won it the four previous years, two of those times against Fujitsu.

Kickoff: Sunday November 29, 11 AM (9 PM EST Nov. 28)

 

Roger Kelly
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.
Skip to toolbar