Cyclones Lead Swept Away In Whirlwind Last 60 Seconds
The Green Bowl Challenge championship game ended in a 15-15 tie. Club Hawkeye scored touchdowns on their first and last possessions of the game including a two-point conversion with 16 seconds left on the clock.
The tie was a disappointment to Cyclones defensive lineman Akihiro Shibata who recorded the last of his team’s four sacks with less than a minute on the clock and Club Hawkeye trying to convert on fourth and four on the cusp of the red zone. The attempt ended with Shibata on top of the opposing QB at the 25 yard line. Shibata said, “We were playing well and had pressure on the whole drive. I was happy to get the sack but disappointed with final score.”
After the sack, with 50 seconds on the clock, possession of the ball and an 8 point lead Nagoya Cyclones should have only needed a first down to seal the victory. Club Hawkeye however used two timeouts to stop the clock and Nagoya went three-and-out with 29 seconds still on the clock.
Nagoya’s subsequent punt was blocked and Club Hawkeye LB Kazuaki Miya rumbled to the 5-yard line to set up the final score. Miya summed it up, “Time was running out. I was able to get into good position and recover the ball.” On third and goal from the 5-yard line, QB Hiroki Endo connected with WR Masahiro Aso for his second catch of the game - both touchdowns.
Needing two points for the tie Endo found flanker Seiichiro Koda in the end zone and the game finished all square. Club Hawkeye’s kicker Yamaguchi, who is listed as a lineman, kicked FGs goals of 28, 30 and 32 yards but also missed a PAT and had a 26-yarder blocked.
Nagoya Cyclones QBs did an admirable job passing the ball for 264 yards to six different receivers but a ground attack using eight different ball carriers went mostly in reverse with a mere 10 yards on 28 rushes. Club Hawkeye’s offense totaled just 130 yards on 52 plays and they let chances slip away, even when the momentum did swing in their favor, such as after the blocked FG attempt. The block sent the ball back toward midfield but instead of taking advantage of the field position, Cyclones LB Tango Kotaro grabbed a floated pass for the only interception of the game. That turnover resulted in another FG attempt for Yamaguchi and he didn’t miss twice.
Club Hawkeye DB Ichikawa isn’t big but he didn’t hesitate to go facemask first into the ball carrier’s chest on more than one occasion. He completed his tackles, wrapping his arms around the torso while driving the player back with his legs. The results were some of the bone crunching hits that make football so popular. When asked Ichikawa laughed, “Really? I don’t have time to practice much because I work in Nagoya. But I’ve been playing defense since middle school.” The championship game ended in a tie but like all spring games its main purpose was to get new players acclimatized and work on game plans for the more serious business to come in the autumn.
- Tony Chestnut: May 20th 2017
Club Hawkeye (15) - (15) Nagoya Cyclones
Photos: Lionel Piguet- May 20th 2017: Oji Stadium
Sidewinders Sidelined As Golden Fighters Wrap Up Third Place
The Green Bowl Challenge third place game was a battle between second division (X2) rivals Golden Fighters and Sidewinders. Golden Fighters took control on a six-minute opening series, driving the length of the field for a TD then held the lead for the rest of the game running out 17-10 winners. Golden Fighters RB Kazuki Kadota who scored that first touchdown, ended the day with 67 yards on 11 carries. QB Ryutaro Yoshimura, in his first start, completed 7 of 14 passes for 67 yards and added 25 yards on six carries.
Golden Fighter’s other RB Teppei Takayanagi, had a big day running for 71 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Giving credit for the win to his QB, Takayanagi said, “Even though it was his first game, Yoshimura did a good job both running and passing.” Yoshimura had time in the pocket to make plays thanks to the blocking scheme that had Takayanagi lining up next to the QB in the shotgun where he could pick up blitzing defenders and buy time for the plays to develop.
Takayanagi, listed at 100 kg, was a formidable blocker but was also surprisingly light on his feet, scampering left and right early in the game then hurdling a defender on his touchdown run. He said, “I’m big and I usually go low and get tackled low so when I saw the defender going low I got the angle on him and just jumped over.” Club Golden Fighters added a field goal in the fourth quarter to seal the victory in a game that was never close on the scoreboard.
The Sidewinders, while attempting a field goal in the second quarter with a QB in as holder, had the snap go high and over his head. Undeterred he chased the ball down and now more than 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage and with defenders swarming, he turned and threw the ball to his kicker who smartly dropped the ball for an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs. Sidewinders had failed to score but they kept the damage to a minimum on what could have been a disastrous play.
Just a few minutes later, Sidewinders again had a chance to score but failed on a last second 27-yard pass into the end zone for the final play of the first half. The pass that initially went into the end zone was batted up and out of the end zone by DB Yuji Imai. The ball flipped end over end to the waiting arms of number 7, WR Kimura, who fell to his knees and then into to the end zone for what was initially ruled a touchdown. A brief discussion among the officials concluded that he was down before crossing the goal line and the half was over.
In the third quarter Sidewinders finally scored on a safety that was awarded when the QB was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone. Sidewinders scored a two-point play again in the fourth quarter on the conversion after their only touchdown. The touchdown was a result of the passing game briefly coming together. An attempted onside kick on the resulting kickoff failed however and the game and spring season for both teams came to an end.
- Tony Chestnut: May 20th 2017
Golden Fighters (17) - (10) Sidewinders
Photos: Lionel Piguet- May 20th 2017: Oji Stadium
Cyclones Blow Away Golden Fighters En Route to Green Bowl Challenge Final
In the last of the first series of games (and the only one played outside Kobe) Nagoya Cyclones showed the difference in class between most X1 teams and those in X2 with a comprehensive 27-3 win over Golden Fighters. Nagoya scored TDs in the air, on the ground and on an 87-yard punt return by Shoichi Matsubara. Matsubara also finished the day’s scoring in the third quarter with an 11-yard TD reception.
Golden Fighters found it hard to get any kind of momentum going and were limited to 69 yards of total offense. Their two FGs were scored by Yuya Adachi and one was a 50-yearder. That’s something you don’t see often in Japan, especially in the lower divisions were few teams have specialized kickers. Indeed Adachi is listed on a roster as a DB, which makes the distance all the more impressive
All four teams from the Green Bowl Challenge will play at Oji stadium on May 20th in the final round of games. The third / fourth place playoff between Golden Fighters and Sidewinders is first up at 11am followed by the final at between Cyclones and Club Hawkeye at 1:40pm.
- John Gunning: May 6th 2017
Nagoya Cyclones (27) - (3) Golden Fighters
Photos: Edward Scruggs- May 6th 2017: Nagoya City Minato Soccer Stadium
Hawkeye Repeat Playoff Win Over Sidewinders In Green Bowl Challenge
Club Hawkeye continued their winning ways against rival Sidewinders in a wet Green Bowl Challenge semi-final in Kobe. This was a rematch of the game that saw the Sidewinders relegated to X2 and Club Hawkeye promoted to X1 at the end of last season. The game also featured former Panasonic Impulse QB, Yuma Nagayoshi, in his return to the league as WR and return specialist for Club Hawkeye.
Nagayoshi set the tone for the day on the opening kickoff, selling a fake lateral with a jump and sweeping overhand motion, before tucking the ball and slashing ahead for 22 yards. The Sidewinders would spend much of the day trying to keep up with Nagayoshi, who had three receptions for more than 10 yards and ran a punt back 62 yards for a touchdown. Nagayoshi said of the touchdown, “We used good technique as a team, I got early blocks and I’m happy but it’s not just me.”
It wasn’t just Nagayoshi. The whole Club Hawkeye offense was running smoothly throughout the day despite the rain and wind. Their balanced attack gained 150 yards on 30 carries and 178 yards on 15 of 29 passing. Exactly half of their 16 first downs were on passes and even as rain began to sweep across the field in the second quarter, they threw caution to the wind and threw the ball on fourth down from just outside the red zone. It worked.
The only play that wasn’t working for Club Hawkeye was the one trying to bowl big number 98 (RB Ryohei Kajiwara) through the line into the end zone. Kajiwara was stymied on both of his carries and using him to push a teammate from behind was no more successful.
The Sidewinders demonstrated how that play is supposed to be run, employing their captain, TE Yusuke Nishikawa, to punch through for a touchdown for their only score of the game, with just seconds on the clock in fourth quarter. Unable to get the point after, the Sidewinders lost 26-6.
Aside from the touchdown, the only other bright spot for the Sidewinders on a gloomy day was the first quarter play of DB Fumiya Okada. Early in the first drive, Okada nearly picked off starting QB Hiroki Endo on a short pass to the right but the ball bounced off his hands. On the next play Endo tested Okada again, but this time Okada tipped the ball to himself for the interception.
Despite the excellent field position the Sidewinders couldn’t score after the INT and generally had trouble getting the ball out of the backfield, gaining a meager 13 yards on 25 carries. It wasn’t a much better show in the air. Sidewinders QBs combined for 106 yards on 10 of 26 passing but were also sacked four times.
Club Hawkeye DL Kohei Oya had two of those sacks and Tetsuo Yoshida did his part with a sack for an 18 yard loss in the fourth quarter. That brought up fourth and long for the Sidewinders. Their punt was blocked and the ball bounced to DB Kei Kawasaki who ran it back 25 yards for the score.
With their win over Sidewinders, Club Hawkeye showed again they are the better team and deserved their promotion to X1. Their next game will be the Green Bowl Challenge final on May 20 at Kobe’s Oji Stadium, where they will face serious competition from the Nagoya Cyclones who beat Golden Fighters in the other semi-final.
- Tony Chestnut: May 6th 2017
Club HawkEye (26) - (6) Sidewinders
Photos: Lionel Piguet- May 6th 2017: Oji Stadium