On January 3, the Japan U.S. DREAM BOWL was held at the National Stadium in Tokyo, featuring the players who played in the “Rice Bowl,” the championship game of the X1 Super, the Japanese adult X League, held at Tokyo Dome, as well as elite players from the student league.
The U.S. Selected Team consists of 51 players selected from eight Ivy League universities, the most prestigious universities in the U.S. In addition to preparing for the games, the team had a busy schedule of experiencing Japanese history, culture, and Japanese technology, as well as international exchange with Japanese high school and university students.
This is the final report from Journal-ONE, which has been closely following the Ivy League team since their first day in Japan! We would like to introduce not only the heated up games but also the wonderful and mischievous personalities of the players and staff members. We hope you will also read our previous reports on the historical and cultural experience in Kamakura, the test-ride of Japanese technology, the superconducting linear train in Yamanashi, and the international exchange with high school students in Kanagawa Prefecture.
When the Japan U.S. DREAM BOWL was held the weather in Tokyo was clear at the National Stadium. The air was cold but the wind was light, making it a perfect day for football.
Three hours before the game, the players of the All-Japan Selected Team gathered one after another. This is Joshua Cox, a defensive back (DB) for the Panasonic Impulse.
Although the team didn’t become on the top spot in Japan in the recent Rice Bowl, Joshua Cox was able to blind the opposing team’s attack with his powerful rushing ability. Before today’s game, “With the pride of being selected for the All-Japan team, I want to make sure we win against the Ivy League team, he said with a calm but enthusiastic expression on his face.Joshua, who played in NCAA Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), the highest level of college football, is a member of NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), an Ivy League university student-athlete, and a member of NCAA Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision). He showed his intention that he is not going to be defeated by the national selection team.
The All-Japan team this time is the strongest team in Japan, including foreign players like Joshua who plays in the X-League, Japan’s premier league! At the pre-game press conference, head coach Yamamoto and captain Cho of Fujitsu Frontiers, which won the Rice Bowl and became Japan’s No. 1 team, were fired up with fighting spirit, saying, “We will definitely win this game. Before the game, they had been expecting a pretty good game. TBlessed with fine weather, the players of both teams were excited with the expectation that they would perform to their fullest.
Offensive line (OL) coach Jon Mclaughlin checking the conditions on the field. Despite the tension building up before the match, he said, “When I came to Japan in 2006 (with HC Bagnoli), I observed the practice of the university’s sumo team, and this time I was able to watch sumo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Everywhere we went in Japan, from the hosts of this tournament to the hotels and restaurants, we were treated with great hospitality by the Japanese people.” He told us his memorable experience in Japan.
Both players gathered on the field and began to move their bodies!
The Ivy League team was led by Coach Frank Lisante. The loud voice of Frank Lisante enlivening the players was just like a scene from an American movie. We have been covering the practice sessions every day since the team’s arrival in Japan, and the smiling, relaxed players and the sophisticated way they perform the menus for each position reminded us of the style and pride of the home country, the United States of America.
On the other hand, the All-Japan team. Many of the players here have tightened their expressions and are filled with a sense of tension in a good way. Joshua, who spoke to us earlier, seems to have sharpened his concentration.
At 1:00 p.m., with a crowd of more than 10,000 people watching the game, a serious match, not to be confused with a friendly match, finally kicked off.
In the first quarter, the All-Japan team took the first offensive position. The passing offense, led by quarterback Tsubasa Takagi (#18 Fujitsu Frontiers), was deployed right away! At the start of the game, we thought we would see how well the Ivy League defensive team would respond to mainly run plays, but they aggressively attacked with their own characteristics.
Football is one of the sports in which momentum (flow of the game) is said to have a great influence on the outcome. The goal was to get the momentum going by scoring the first goal. Finally, Shintaro Saeki (#17 Panasonic Impulse), a kicker (K) who is a master of kicking, scored a field goal (FG) to give the All-Japan team the lead.
The FG scores 3 points. Compared to the 6 points for a touchdown (TD), this may seem insufficient, but in football, 3 points can often be the difference between a game and a win. Saeki also made a 40-yd FG in the 2nd quarter, which made this close game very exciting.
With the All-Japan team taking the lead, this game was sure to be an interesting one.
Against the Ivy League team, they started their attack mainly with run plays. The Ivy League team seemed to have a solid game plan to attack the enemy position, but on their second right to attack, they suddenly showed a special play (a specially designed attack pattern) and succeeded in it!
The team quickly attacked deep into enemy territory, and in the blink of an eye, running back Allen Smith (#39 Allen Smith) scored the game-winning touchdown. When you get beat, you get beat right back. They did tho gave up momentum so easily!
In the second quarter, both teams started to get going. Both teams’ offensive teams attacked the enemy territory with a mixture of run and pass, but again, both teams’ defenses hit hard to hold them off.
The Ivy League quarterback Ryan Glover’s pass fascinated the crowd. The trajectory of the ball was really beautiful. To begin with, it is difficult to throw an oval-shaped ball forward with a screw rotation, but he did it with ease and precision.
He is a flamboyant American QB who can handle long passes and short passes at will, and he is able to get the stands excited. The OL are also struggling physically today to make the QB throw passes with confidence.
The Ivy League OL, led by Jake Guidone (#72), who is one of the captains of the Ivy League team, and other men with a “gentle but strong heart” repeatedly protect the desperate All-Japan defensive team. Although they are rarely introduced during the game, they continue to support Grover and his teammates’ performance in every play. When you look at their contributions to the team’s victory from the shadows, football becomes more and more interesting. In fact, in the United States, it is said that a man who plays on the offensive line is the best man to marry the daughters.
The All-Japan team’s defense is led by linebacker (LB) Xiangrai Cho (#44 Fujitsu Frontiers), who is the captain of the team. On this day, Zhao was positioned in the middle of the defensive body type, making proclamations and standing up to the Ivy League selection’s attack without backing down a single step.
LB Yu Konishi (#48 Panasonic Impulse), who captivated the crowd at the Rice Bowl, and defensive end (DE) Joe Mathis (#0) also made fierce contact here and there, not allowing any penetration into the end zone. On the last play of the first half, DB Cox intercepted a long pass for a touchdown (TD) by the Ivy League team.
In the end, the All-Japan team scored 3 points in the quarter on the second FG by K Saeki, giving the Ivy League team a 1-point lead, 7-6.
Halftime. Both teams were mixed members gathered for this match, so it was assumed that they reconfirmed their own team’s rules and carefully collected and analyzed information on the opposing team. Of course, they did this in order to win the match.
With some time left, the Ivy League players returned to the field. A little later, the players of the All-Japan team re-entered the field with a sharp look in their eyes. The game went into the second half without any indication of which way the game was going to go.
In the third quarter, the game began to move as soon as the second half started. The Ivy League team took the first offensive position. Wide receiver (WR) Jack Bill (#17) returned a kickoff for a big gain, and QB Glover again attacked deep into the enemy territory with a fast-paced passing attack. Pass after pass, pass after pass, and finally RB Isaiah Malcome (#33 Isaish Malcome) took it into the end zone for a TD!
Malcolm is small in stature at 165 cm tall, but his body is muscular. It is said that it is an ironclad rule for RBs to keep running until they are knocked down, and Malcolm practices this rule 120%. The defense of the All-Japan team had a lot of trouble with him, and the Ivy League team seemed to let Malcolm have the ball in situations where they wanted to move forward without fail.
Also, when the opponents were wary of him, the WRs were less marked, which made it easier for them to pass the ball. Malcolm showed his presence both with and without the ball. He was the MVP of the match, which was a very natural result. The score is now 14-6.
“The U.S. is indeed strong…” Just as many in the audience seemed to feel, the All-Japan team made a brilliant counterattack. Just after the attack, RB Mitchell Victor Jamau (#5 Panasonic Impulse) made a perfect decision on a screen pass, which they had chosen as their winning play on this day, and scored a TD!
In addition to Victor Jamoh, the All-Japan team included Joshua Cox, who took a pre-game interview, Rice Bowl MVP Trashaun Nixon (#2), Samajie Grant (#4) (Fujitsu Frontiers), and John Stanton (#40) (IBM Big Blue)were on the game with Japanese spirits. The players who regularly play in the X-League and help raise the level of football in Japan did exactly what was expected of them on this day. Thanks to them, the score became 14-12 after a failed 2-point conversion but the Ivy League team quickly added 3 points on a FG to make it 17-12.
The Ivy League team tried to push the game back, but the All-Japan team showed no signs of giving up, and deployed a long drive that effectively combined the run and the pass to take over the American team. A long pass from QB Takagi to WR Grant cut through the enemy line, and finally RB Nixon scored a touchdown for another comeback!
The 2-point conversion on a special play was also successful, and the All-Japan team took the lead back to 20-17 before the final 4Q.
The winner will be decided in this quarter, no matter if you cry or laugh. The pride of the Ivy League team and the determination of the All-Japan team clashed.
Here, the Ivy League team stepped up their game. The trio of University of Pennsylvania selections, QB Groper, RB Malcolm, and WR Ryan Cragun (#10), switched on a breathtaking attack, and the rhythm of their offense was unstoppable.
This time, the Ivy League selection did not miss the timing when the opponent wanted to take a breather, such as at quarter time or right after scoring. In the end, Grover ended the game with the ball himself, as if to say, “I’m going to decide!” He brought the ball into the end zone and scored another TD!
This gave the Ivy League team a 4-point lead, 24-20.
The All-Japan team immediately made a big return to regain their position, and again made a screen pass to RB Nixon, and desperately fought back. They took their time to attack deep into the enemy territory, but their 4th down gamble for a touchdown failed miserably, and they ended this attack without scoring a point.
The Ivy League team again took the offensive initiative from around their own 5-yd line, and moved the clock forward with a run-oriented play selection. The Ivy League team moved forward little by little with run plays, and surely renewed the right of attack. The Ivy League team will continue their strategy of aiming for time up without giving the right of attack to the All-Japan team until the very end.
The right of attack passed to the All-Japan team with only 8 seconds left in the game. All-Japan team made one last play to end the game. The result was; Ivy League Team 24-20 All-Japan Team. The Ivy League team, who had gained momentum by Grover’s touchdown, did not give it up until the very end of the game.
At the same time the game ended, the players and staff of both teams rushed to the field to congratulate each other. The Ivy League players, who had saved their face as representatives of the U.S., the country of football, were smiling and exploding with joy.
On the other hand, the players of the All-Japan team, who had really tried to win the game but came up just short, showed their frustration. The steam rising from the players’ bodies told more than anything that this was a serious competition.
The players, still excited, took photos with the commemorative plaques presented to the winners. There were captain Guidon was nervous at the press conference, OL Micheal Flores gazed who showed his interest at the Yamanashi Linear Test Line, and Kramer and Luca Di Leo, who were interviewed during the practice.
Jaylan Granbery and Noaa Aaronn of Yale University who talked about the charms of Japan during their historical and cultural experience in Kamakura were also all smiles.
The athletes, who talked a lot during this close-up interview, call out to us.
DB CJ Wall (#2 Charries Wall), who uploaded the Superconducting Maglev driving scene on social media, said, “I am very happy that we were able to win a great battle against the Japanese selected team in the wonderful National Stadium, where the Tokyo Olympics were held. It was also a valuable experience to be exposed to the various histories and cultures of Japan. Thank you all very much for your warm welcome.” He happily shared his impressions of his visit to Japan.
Allen (#39 Allen Smith), who scored a spectacular TD, also commented, “I had a great experience in Japan this time. I think the results from today’s game will lead to the NFL scouting combine (NFL tryouts) that will be starting soon. Thank you so much for giving me this great opportunity to immerse myself in the Japanese culture. He is excited about his next goal.
“I am happy to play football in Japan, where I love. I can’t thank everyone enough for being so good to me. I want to study Japanese and come back to Japan for sure!” Isaac Hall, who directed a furious attack as a LB, also looked happy and said.
Michael Azevedo, a DL who rushed to the field, said, “It was a really great game! The Ivy League team gave everything they had. I am really happy to win. Japan lost, but don’t be discouraged! Japanese football is really progressing. I am confident that Japan will become even stronger in the future.” he said excitedly, praising the Japanese team’s good performance.
“I just wanted to say how thankful I am for your hospitality of myself and my teammates. I had the most incredible time in Japan and getting to know you and all the other people I met in my time here. The culture, the food, the locations, and the people of your beautiful country were amazing to experience and get to know. This trip was one of the best times of my life, I need to come back some time and see everything else.” He left a note of thanks to everyone involved in the Japan U.S. Dream Dowl.
After the game, we were also able to talk to some of the fans who watched the game at a cafe near the National Stadium. They are a group of teachers who teach at the U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base.
Shelley Tuson opened the conversation by saying, “We were looking forward to watching the game at the National Stadium. We all sat in the balcony to watch the game.”
“I didn’t know the level of football in Japan was so high! It was a really good game. It was also refreshing to hear the unique Japanese play-by-play. In the U.S., when a field goal is scored, you don’t hear “Goal!” It was fun, just like soccer. Anita Magrath, who is familiar with football, also found the Japan U.S. Dream Bowl to be well worth watching.
“Where can we watch football in Japan? If the level is as high as this, I’m sure Americans would want to go watch, too.” Joelyn Tuson also found Japanese football attractive after watching the Japan U.S. Dream Bowl.
It was a great feeling to see the two teams giving it their all, competing, recognizing each other, and showing respect to each other. This is where the true meaning of “goodwill” lies. We felt that we learned not only high-level football performance but also such important things from the players of both teams.
Thank you very much to the Ivy League and All-Japan selections for their great performances!
Journal-ONE looks forward to the continuation of this wonderful international game of friendship between Japan and the United States. We would also like to introduce you to Japan’s premier American football league, the X-League, which is becoming more and more exciting, and the bonds that football weaves between people.