Fujitsu Score Early Then Bolt The Door On Seagulls
Fujitsu Frontiers defeated Obic Seagulls in an absolutely enthralling Japan XBowl semifinal in Kawasaki on November 26th. The 7-0 scoreline gives no indication of the twists and turns this contest took in front of a sell out crowd of 4,047 at Fujitsu Stadium. QB Colby Cameron put his body on the line twice at the end of the first drive and the second time the officials awarded him what turned out to be the only score of the game. The Louisiana Tech man had actually broken the plane while still inbounds one play earlier but without instant replay there was no way for the officials to tell for sure.
Cameron’s TD came eight plays into the game and the teams would run another 115 plays combined without any further points being scored.
In a display reminiscent of the 1960’s heyday of Inter Milan, Fujitsu completely stifled Obic’s offense, holding Seagulls to 182 total yards. Not that their own 238 yards in reply was much better but Frontiers did manage 14 first downs to Obic’s 9 .The stats otherwise were pretty much the same across the board with Fujitsu’s numbers, while not that impressive slightly better than Obic’s.
The game opened at a hectic pace and despite the lack of scoring the energy in the stadium never dropped. The warm autumn sunshine certainly helped but Fujitsu and Obic are two of the better-supported teams in the league.
Cameron hit WR Sei Kyo for a deep gain over the center on the opening TD drive, Noriaki Kinoshita took the resulting KO out to midfield then Taku Lee gained big yardage on a screen and it seemed as if we’d be in for another high scoring offensive shootout. That wasn’t to be though as both defenses stiffened and a swirling breeze at pitch level contributed to all three field goal efforts on the day being missed.
Seagulls, as they had done all season, rotated QBs. With Trashaun Nixon on a tear though it didn’t seem to matter who was under center. The All-League LB was equally effective bringing pressure or dropping into coverage. Nixon was credited with just four tackles as stat gremlins ate his sacks but his impact was immense. On Al Rilwan Adeyemi’s game sealing interception he beat RB Asaki Mochizuki on a stunt and hit QB Shun Sugawara’s arm as it came forward sending the pass wayward.
Obic’s front seven too had plenty of success. Kevin Jackson batted down a pass and had a sack and Takuya Seike got a big push up the center on a tackle for loss to force a FG attempt that fell short by the exact distance he had driven Fujitsu back. BJ Beatty too was his usual disruptive self and it’s no coincidence that one play after he had to leave the field injured Cameron had time in the pocket to scan the field and complete a pass for a key first down.
Most of Seagulls offensive production came from the ‘Thunder and Lighting’ duo of Mochizuki and Lee, with the latter shining in the passing game too. However neither man could make the first down line in the fourth quarter when Obic went for it after having 3rd and 5 on Fujitsu’s 22 yard line. That stop with nine minutes left was huge and Seagulls wouldn’t make it into the Frontiers half again.
Fujitsu now move on to the XBowl for an unprecedented fifth straight year. They will be expected to retain their crown when they face IBM on December 18th at Tokyo Dome. Three years ago Frontiers blew out the same opponent 44-10 in the final, but Big Blue downed the previously unbeaten and heavily favoured Impulse in this season’s other semi-final and also beat Obic Seagulls for the first time ever in their 2017 opener.
The Chiba-based side have never been champions and that 2014 defeat was their only previous appearance in the XBowl but the way they are knocking down big names this season they certainly won’t be taken lightly by Fujitsu. The game has all the makings of a classic. If it’s half as exciting as the semi-finals were we are in for a treat.
- John Gunning: November 26th 2017