Obic Seagulls stage last-play goal line stand to upset the Fujitsu Frontiers, capture first X Bowl since 2013

After a seven-year title drought, the Obic Seagulls finally recaptured Japan’s Xleague championship title by beating the previously undefeated Fujitsu Frontiers 13-7 in a fierce defensive battle in X Bowl XXXIV.

Like every game between these two teams, it was intense. It took a final play, goal line stand by the Seagulls to decide it. Obic defensive back Kubo Akira knocked down a pass from Fujitsu quarterback Michael  Birdsong to wide receiver Jumpei Yoshimoto in the corner of the end zone on the last play of the game and Seagulls players began celebrating.

The Seagulls defense had kept the high flying Fujitsu offense in check the entire game, with the front seven harassing Birdsong and smothering running back Samajie Grant and the secondary shutting down the Frontiers receivers for much of the game. Meanwhile, the Seagulls offense led by running back Taku Lee was able to take advantage of the opportunities when needed. Lee rushed for 111 yards and both touchdowns and was selected as the MVP of the game for his efforts.

Obic’s defense set the tone early on with defensive back Bronson Beatty picking off Birdsong on the second Fujitsu drive of the game. Then, with the ball on the Fujitsu 44 yard line, Seagulls quarterback Jimmy Laughrea rolled right and connected with wide receiver Yuto Nishimura who slid down to the one yard line. Lee took the ball in on the next play and the Seagulls took a 7-0 lead.

With the defense continuing to keep the Frontiers offense neutralized,  Laughrea and Co. went back to work in the second quarter. Tight end Holden Huff made a couple of key catches while Lee’s running kept the Frontiers off balance. With the ball on the Fujitsu seven yard line, the Seagulls offensive line opened a gap and Lee pounced weaving his way into the end zone. The extra point was missed but Obic moved out to a 13-0 lead. midway through the second quarter.

The Seagulls defensive line did an excellent job Photo: Xleague

Birdsong finally got the Fujitsu offense untracked on the next series, marching from the 17 yard line all the way down to the Seagulls 12. He then dropped back and threw a fade pass deep in the left corner of the end zone and his 6’1″ wide receiver Riki Matsui simply outleaped Obic’s 5’8″ corner Masashi Fujimoto for the ball to score a much needed touchdown. Kicker Hidetetsu Nishimura added the extra point to narrow the lead to within a touchdown, 13-7 as the first half ended.

Both defenses took control of the third quarter and neither team could score. Fujitsu came the closest, as Birdsong drove his team down to the Obic two yard line. However, on a quarterback sneak, the ball came out as Birdsong was being tackled and Obic recovered. The referees ruled it a fumble and the Seagulls took over.

This time, the Frontiers defense stiffened, forcing Obic to punt and with a minute and a half left in the game, Fujitsu took over on their own 22 yard line. Birdsong marched them down to the two yard line in 1:28. But Akira’s pass knockdown finished the game.

Laughrea was solid for Obic completing 15 of 23 passes for 200 yards with Holden Huff as his favorite target. Huff has five receptions for 63 yards. Yuto Nishimura has one catch for 43 yards while Yuki Ikei had two for 24, Maeda Shingo caught two for 23 and Taku Lee three for 21 to go along with his 111 rushing yards.

For Fujitsu, Birdsong threw for 193 yards and one touchdown with Matsui not only catching the lone touchdown pass but also leading all Frontiers receivers with five catches for 54 yards. Grant had three receptions for 54 yards while rushing 13 times for 60 yards. Birdsong added another 66 on the ground.

With this title, Obic has now won a record nine X Bowl championships, surpassing their own mark. This was the fifth time these two teams have faced each other in the title game with the Seagulls now having won four of those games.

Next up for Obic is the Rice Bowl, the ultimate championship game between the winner of the X League and the college title winning team. Obic’s opponents will be the Kwansei Gakuin Fighters who downed the Nihon Phoenix in the college final.

Check out the highlights from the game

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