The Kanto student BIG8 American football team has finished the first league and entered the second league. The first match of the Challenge League, a lower league, was held on November 5th, with Meiji Gakuin University and Sophia University playing against each other. Sophia, which had not won in four games so far, achieved an outstanding first victory by defeating Meiji Gakuin 14-11, thanks to the performance of first-year students including their ace QB, Shoi Inaba (Minamiyama).
Sophia, who had lost all the games, suffered a remarkable upset.
American football games rarely experience upsets like this. Sophia’s victory over Meiji University was an event that could be called a “giant killing.”
Meiji University lost 2 times in the first league. Although he was forced to participate in the Challenge League, he is one of the strongest players in the BIG8. Sophia, on the other hand, has about half the number of players as Meigaku, has no sports endorsements, and is a team with limited competitive experience. Naturally, there are no full-time coaches who watch practice on weekdays.
In reality, Sophia has lost all games so far, suffering a complete loss against Komazawa University and Kokushikan University. His offense only scored one touchdown, which was in the first game against Yokohama National University. Preliminary predictions showed that Meiji University had an overwhelming advantage.
In fact, Meiji University got off to a good start. In the first series, he steadily accumulated gains with runs and passes, and proceeded with the drive. He scored a TD in the first five plays and also completed a two-point conversion. “Ah, a big victory for Meigaku…” However, this reading is incorrect.
First-year students shine in attack, upperclassmen cut off counterattack
QB Inaba kept calm against Sophia’s attack, which had been struggling with a lack of points so far. On the run, he manipulates option plays and efficiently makes mid-range passes at key points, toying with the Meiji defense. From the first quarter (Q) to the second quarter, he completed a drive that took about 10 minutes and took 17 plays, ending with a TD pass to Haruto Nakaune (1st year, Jiyu Gakuen).
LB Yuji Aota (4th year, Tokyo Gakugei University International) cut off Meigaku University’s continued attack with an interception, and RB Keisuke Yonega (1st year, Koishikawa Junior High School) scored a 30-yard runaway TD. The offense responded to the opportunities the defense had, and the lead was 14-8. Sophia took the lead.
Neither side scored in the 3rd quarter. Sophia allowed a long drive to Meiji University in the 4th quarter, but they limited it to 3 FG points and maintained a 14-11 lead. They missed a FG and handed the right to attack to Meiji University with 1 minute and 30 seconds remaining, but Riki Kobayashi (3rd year, Sayamagaoka) intercepted Meiji University’s pass aiming for a comeback, deciding the game. .
Management skills that canceled the reluctance to move up
“Meigaku was clearly a superior opponent, and to be honest, I think everyone was like, “This is serious.”” The first match of the Challenge League. QB Inaba reveals that it cannot be said that there was no hesitation within the team towards Meiji University.
However, once he entered the game, he gradually gained confidence. “The offensive line (offensive line) gave us a solid push and we were able to get some runs, and we were able to get a lot of fresh (first downs), so we could see the results of our practice.”
He was confident that the TD pass he made to Nakaune at the beginning of the second quarter was a “decisive play.” This TD, his second of the season since the opening match against Yokokuni, gave the young QB confidence.
Throughout the match, Inaba coordinated the attack with calm play. He is small in stature and does not have flashy weapons, but he has shown great management skills to make the most of his limited strength. He was unabashed and his results exceeded many people’s expectations in a positive way.
Although he was only a first-year student, his play was apt to be described as someone who knows American football.
Played as QB since junior high school, but left due to the coronavirus pandemic
“I had some passionate seniors call out to me and say, “You should come!”
Attracted by the enthusiastic atmosphere of the Crusaders American football club at Nanzan Junior and Senior High School, he started playing American football as soon as he entered junior high school. His position has always been QB. In the winter of his third year of junior high school, he also participated in the Kansai region junior high school representative tournament, which was included in the undercard of the Koshien Bowl.
He continued to play American football after entering high school, but the coronavirus outbreak occurred during the winter of his first year of high school, and his club activities were restricted. His parents told him to focus on his studies, so he quit the American football club. Aiming to resume playing American football at university, he decided to study at Kyoto University as his first choice.
“Since middle school, I have been studying at Ritsumeikan, Kwansei Gakuin, and Keimei.schoolSince I have played against such elite teams, I wanted to play with a team that did not have sports endorsements even at university. My goal was to enter Kyoto University and compete against Kangaku and Ritsumeikan. Anyway, I really wanted to play American football again in college.” Inaba looks back.
In the spring of my third year of high school, I got excited about my former teammate Venus.
In the spring of my third year of high school, something shocking happened. Nanzan defeated Kansai Gaku High School 13-7 in the first match of the Kansai tournament. This is the first time for Nanzan or a team from the Tokai region to beat Kwangyaku High School. If she had continued her club activities, Inaba would have been in this circle as well.
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“Honestly, I was really disappointed in quitting. I wish I had continued, and I’ve always regretted it.” Inaba honestly confesses her feelings at this time. That’s why I felt even more motivated to take on the challenge at university.
After spending a year as a ronin, he was accepted to Sophia University, although he was not able to enter Kyoto University. Sophia does not have any affiliated schools, and as mentioned above, there is no sports recommendation. The playing field is also dirt, which is unusual these days when artificial turf is the norm, and there is no coach to play the role of coordinator in setting up offensive tactics. Exactly what I wanted to do. This is the kind of environment Inaba was looking for, and there could be no greater adversity.
“We want to be a team that can compete with the top 8.”
In addition to Inaba, the QB is Sotatsu Sato (Mita), a fourth-year student, but Inaba has always been in the game. Sato rarely appears in games, serving as a coordinator and supporting Inaba.
“The fourth-year students discussed it and decided that I would be the QB.I feel sorry that Sato-san will have fewer opportunities to play because I am playing. I’m doing this in hopes of helping my team win.”
It’s only been a little over half a year since I joined the club. When asked about his impressions of the Sophia University Golden Eagles, he replied, “This is a very good team led by fourth-year students.” And then he continued, emphatically: “This is a team that is really made up of students, and we don’t have a full-time coach like the stronger teams.The environment is tougher than the higher-ranking teams.However, I think Sophia is the only team that is so well-organized. I would be happy if you could.”
In this game, three freshmen were named in the starting lineup for each offense and defense. When it comes to run plays, all five players who recorded were first-year players. Despite the tough environment, the first-year students performed so well and even beat the top teams. Certainly, there may not be another team like this. This is probably Sophia’s big attraction.
says the young ace. “By the time we reach our third or fourth year, we want to be one of the top teams in the BIG8 and a team that can even compete in replacement games against the TOP8.” I would like to see their challenges.