Team Japan surprised Team Stars & Stripes by triumphing over American opposition for the second successive Global Challenge Bowl in Kawasaki.
More photos are available at the facebook.com group ‘Global Challenge Bowl’
Down 17-6 at halftime, having scored on the opening drive through a 19-yard Jason Simpson carry, Team Stars & Stripes made costly errors turning the ball over and Japan took full advantage. The hosts scored two unanswered touchdowns to lead 31-6 going into the fourth quarter before the Americans mounted a late comeback.
Quarterback Brandon Cluff took advantage of good blocking on a broken play to rush into the end zone on third and goal and Andre Wells added two points. A trick onside kick caught Japan by surprise and Team Stars & Stripes scored again on a Wells run to pull within 10 points after Maile Labor tagged on the extra point.
Despite another recovered onside kick, the ball was turned over on downs and Japanese quarterback and MVP Yuichirou Araki rushed for a touchdown to complete the 38-21 home victory.
The game opened brightly for Team Stars & Stripes when Stetson Shearer recovered a fumble by Shun Kitagawa and the offense pounded at the Japanese defensive line with running back Christian Ramirez and fullback Jon Wells. Lining up in the wing-t formation, an inside counter saw Simpson dash 19 yards to open the scoring, but Labor’s extra point flew wide left of the uprights.
Neither team’s offense could move the ball on their next possessions and there was little to suggest Japan would blow the game wide open until the home team’s other quarterback Kazuma Okabe launched a 65-yard pass over the heads of the committed American secondary to receiver Jyunpei Yoshimoto for a spectacular game-tying touchdown. Kicker Shoma Endou tagged on the first of his five extra points to give Japan a slim lead, which he increased with a 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, as Japan capitalized on a turnover.
Team Stars & Stripes might have been further behind during the first quarter, but for Trent DeBraga producing a crucial pass break as quarterback Araki threw the ball downfield with growing confidence.
An offside call against Japan on a fumbled Team Stars & Stripes punt saved the Americans from turning the ball over on their own one-yard line, but Japan were relentless and scored on a drive that started at their own 25-yard mark late in the first half.
Masaki Matsuoka turned a short pass into a significant gain through midfield, Araki found the same receiver wide open over the middle to take the ball to the 12-yard mark and capped the drive with a perfectly disguised reverse that allowed running back Shu Inoue to score virtually unchallenged for a 17-6 halftime lead.
The visitors’ mood at half time was one of optimism, rightly believing a few adjustments and the elimination of mistakes could turn the game in their favor. That might have been the case had a pass destined for Josh Norman in open field not been tipped by Keisuke Shimazu on the opening drive of the second half.
Two possessions later, Araki orchestrated a disciplined drive that included an effective shovel pass to Kitagawa, who capped the drive with a one-yard scoring rush and a 24-6 lead.
Both teams fumbled away possession and when Team Stars & Strips coughed the ball up at their own 16-yard line, Japan struck the final blow and effectively ended the contest. The shovel pass, this time from Araki to Inoue, gained 11 yards and a killer pass underneath with the American linebackers dropped back into pass coverage allowed Ryota Matsumori to dance 14 yards in for another score with 1.51 remaining in the third quarter.
As they had last year in the inaugural Global Challenge Bowl, Team Stars & Stripes mounted a fourth quarter comeback. Quarterback Cluff improvised on a broken play and rushed 7 yards to reduce the deficit to 17 points after adding a successful two-point run.
A quickly taken onside kick was recovered by Nick Wells and caught the Japanese off-guard, and the Americans put together their best drive of the game to score again. Andre Wells hit Jon Wells for six yards then the full back pounded two first downs. It was the first time Team Stars and Stripes had moved the chains on consecutive plays.
Jon Wells had taken the ball to the two-yard mark and from there, Andre Wells dived in for a touchdown and Labor tagged on the extra point, making the score 31-21 to Japan.
The onside kick tactic worked again, Cade Warren this time coming up with the ball, but Team Stars & Stripes eventually turned the ball over on downs. Japan moved impressively downfield to close out the game and Araki fittingly ended his impressive night with a three-yard rushing score.
Of the time-sharing quarterbacks Brandon Cluff ended the night with 8 of 14 passes completed for 53 yards and rushed 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown, while Andre Wells had 4 of 17 for 57 yards. Araki hit an impressive 9 of 12 for 132 and a touchdown and rushed for 47 yards and a score, suggesting he will be an impressive leader for Team Japan in this summer’s IFAF Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Christian Ramirez led the Americans on the ground with 37 hard earned yards from 10 carries, while Jon Wells was the leading receiver with 3 catches for 40 yards.
Travis Freeman, Donny Mallin and Cade Warren all recorded sacks for Team Stars & Stripes and there were passes defended by Warren, Steve Caruso, Jason Simpson and Trent DeBraga
Post Game Quotes:
I was really proud to have this experience. The whole trip was just a great experience; I just wish we could have come out with a win. We played hard. We just didn’t have enough time to practice.
The atmosphere here is different. Between plays it was really crazy, but when get up to the line and snap the ball it was dead silence. We have never had that before.
Japan is very fast and disciplined. They play really good football out here.
This was one of the best trips I’ve been on. I would love to do it again. I am very glad I was chosen to do it.
It was really touching to hear the national anthem. It was a moment to soak up. It was really touching.
It was fun to play in the game. We started off with a real high and we came down. It took us a while to get started again. It was a little too late. We gave it our all in the end. We played a great Japan team and they are going to go real far in the IFAF Junior World Championship this summer.
Japan is quick of the ball. Surprisingly, they know a lot more about football than we think. I was really amazed. The player I was going up against, #21 (Jyunpei Yoshimoto), was relentless. I had to bring it every play and he was well conditioned. He was a great player and the entire team is quite good. They have been practicing a while, but regardless a great team.
I can sum up this experience as I am coming back whether I am playing football or not. The football game was great, but I’m definitely coming back. I loved the experience.
It was emotional to hear the national anthem before the game knowing that we are in Japan representing our country. It felt good at the same time.
The game atmosphere was very different in Japan. We have other people watching that don’t necessarily understand the game like we do in America. It was definitely great.
The experience here was life changing. It was fun. My host family was great.
I was hyped when I heard the national anthem before the game. I was excited to play the game.
The game atmosphere here was a lot different with the timing of the cheering. Other than that the people were pretty enthusiastic like back home so it was enjoyable to play.
It was a fun game to play in!
Team Japan had a lot of good players. They were very quick players.
I definitely got really psyched up hearing the national anthem. It brought the whole reality of the experience to me. I was excited and just pumped that I was going to have the opportunity to play for my country. So it all came together right there.
It felt awesome to play. The first series was amazing. We caused a fumble that I recovered. It was awesome. There was so much energy. We just came out and physically dominated in the first series.
Team Japan is very disciplined. They did not make many mistakes and we did. That was our flaw and they just had less flaws.
I loved the trip. The game was fun, but it would have been a lot better if we won. The whole trip was fun though. It was a great time, great guys, and great coaching staff.
It was very exciting to hear the national anthem. It made the experience more real.
The atmosphere was a lot different. It was a lot more exciting than usual because you don’t really know what to expect. I had a lot of fun.
Overall Team Japan was a really good team. I thought we could have played a little bit better, but both teams were very good.
I loved the trip!
This game was the first time that national anthem meant something being in a different country you really value the national anthem. You know you hear it all the time but it doesn’t really mean anything, because you hear it all the time. Being in another country, it just makes you proud to be an American.
Oh man, what an experience. This is something I’ll remember the rest of my life. I can’t express how much it was an honor to be here and to play in the game.
Team Japan is good. If we had a little more time to prepare I think the outcome would have been different, but they are a good team.
I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It was awesome.
It was wonderful, just being from the United States of America is a great honor, and to know all the people that have shed their blood for us. I look forward to going into the military, so it means quite a bit to me.
I love the guys that I’ve met here. I think that was the most valuable experience here. The football game was just a side note.
The Japanese are very well coached. They have a lot of time to spend together and practice. So I feel we did well for the amount of time we had to practice this week.
It was indescribable hearing the anthem. Everything just tightened up. You have that chill running up your back. It was just crazy.
It was so much fun.
This Japanese players, in between the whistles they are the hardest hitting kids but after they will help you right up.
It was strange, during the snap of the ball it was really quiet and then we go in the huddle it would get really loud. So it kind of is opposite from in the states but it was so much fun.
Team Japan is fast! Every time you go to catch a ball there is a guy right at your ankles or hips. And just boom!
The experience was the best in my life! It can’t get any better than this.
It was very heartwarming to hear the anthem. It was pretty cool hearing it when we were all the way in Japan.
Team Japan was well put together. They are more than what I expected.
My favorite part of the trip was staying with the host family.
Box Score 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Total
Team Japan 7 10 14 7 38
Team Stars & Stripes 6 0 0 15 21
Team Stars & Stripes Offense:
Christian Ramirez (Salpointe, AZ) 10-37
Jason Simpson (Woodside, CA) 2-26
Achilles Flowers (Central Coosa, AL) 7-8
Josh Norman (Santa Rita, AZ) 2-4
Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez, AZ) 5-20
Andre Wells (St Josephs, OH) 13-38
Jon Wells (Santa Rita, AZ) 1-10
Bruce Maldonado (Glen Oak, AZ) 1-5
Jason Simpson (Woodside, CA) 2-2
Christian Ramirez (Salpointe, AZ) 2-22
William Griffin (Tucson, AZ) 1-27
Jon Wells (Santa Rita, AZ) 3-40
Brandon Meckelburg (Wautoma, WI) 3-14
Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez, AZ) 14-8-53-0-0
Andre Wells (St Josephs, OH) 17-4-1-0-1
Travis Freeman 1
Donny Mallin 1
Cade Warren 1
Steve Caruso 1
Jason Simpson 1
Trent DeBraga 1
Cade Warren 1
Team Stats Japan S&S
First Downs 9 (1-7-1) 13 (8-4-1)
Passing (att-comp-int) 17-10-0-202 31-12-1-110
Rushing (no. / yards) 23-96 40-143
Offense (no. / yards 40-298 71-253
Penalty (no. / yards) 5-15 7-24
Fumbles no. / lost) 3-2 4-2
Field Goals (att – made) 1-1 0-0
3D conversions 2-8 4-14
4D conversions 0-0 2-5
Possession 18’45 29’15