Nojima Sagamihara Rise 31 - 11 Tokyo Gas Creators
A couple of things were obvious following this game.
One. The loss of Devin Gardner was a massive blow to Nojima's hopes this season. While a replacement has been lined up in Jimmy Laughrea out of UC Davis, it's going to be very difficult for any QB to match the kind of offensive production Gardner brought.
Two. Tokyo Gas Creators are pretty much a lock for one of the two Battle 9 playoff slots this season. Creators and Lions are clearly the two best teams in the lower section of X1.
A big reason for that is new QB Ikaika Woolsey who moves over from Obic Seagulls. The conservative run-run-run approach Tokyo Gas employed last season is a thing of the past now that the big-armed passer out of UH is under center.
Not that everything went according to plan right out of the gate. Woolsey jumped up and down in frustration over missed opportunities several times. That's understandable as the talent surrounding him isn't on the same level as it was at the Seagulls last year.
Although he went just 9 of 22 for 80 yards Woolsey showed good athleticism and touch and once he knocks the rust off and gets more in sync with his receivers the stats will improve.
A 31-11 loss might not seem like a great result but it should be remembered that Tokyo Gas has never beaten any of the top sides never mind Nojima and was hammered by the Sagamihara outfit 69-7 just two seasons ago.
No this was more about building confidence and putting in a good effort. Setting Creators up for a game against Silver Star that should be closer.
For Rise though despite the loss of Gardner and the two other Michigan Wolverines on the roster Sione Houma and Mario Ojemudia, there were bright spots.
WR Yuhei Yagi continued his scintilating form from last season hauling in 10 passes for 139 yards and a TD.
Though Laughrea is considered a dual threat QB like Gardner, his tape shows a strong armed passer that uses his mobility to avoid pressure in the pocket rather than one that takes off when his first option is covered. Yagi and the other receivers on the roster should still be in good shape but the question as to how Rise will replace Gardners rushes remains. Other Americans are coming almost certainly but right now no names have been mentioned.
- John Gunning: April 22nd 2018