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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Japan pummels France in IFAF World Cup opener

Staff writer

KAWASAKI — A triumphal journey has begun.

News photo
Japan wide receiver Koji Yoneyama scores on a 19-yard touchdown pass after breaking a tackle by France safety Emmanuel Charret in the first quarter of the opening game of the third World Championship at Kawasaki's Todoroki Track and Field Stadium on Saturday. Two-time defending champion Japan routed France 48-0. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

And it was in ideal fashion for Japan, which kept the pressure on France on both sides of the ball.

The two-time defending champion Japan literally overwhelmed "Les Bleus" with a mighty offensive attack and a merciless defense as it grabbed a 48-0 win in the opening game of the 3rd IFAF World Championship at Todoroki Stadium on Saturday night.

Yuichi Tomizawa (Onward Skylarks), who led the Hinomaru squad to the title four years ago, was 13-of-23 for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Koji Yoneyama (Fujitsu Frontiers) was on the receiving end of both touchdown strikes.

"We came in here with preparation," Japan head coach Toshiaki Abe said after the game. "We were ready to play a tough game."

Japan, which beat France 23-6 in the 2003 tournament after a scoreless first half, got on scoreboard early this time around. Defensive lineman Masaki Yamanaka (Matsushita Denko Impulse) tackled France starting quarterback William Leonardo De Sa in the endzone to force a safety just 1 minute and 16 seconds into the game.

Japan's first touchdown came with 7:19 left in the first quarter when running back Masahiro Ishino (Matsushita Denko Impulse) plowed in from the French two-yard line to cap a 73-yard scoring drive.

Cheered by 12,336 enthusiastic Japanese fans, Japan kept its momentum going.

While Japan's defense stifled the French attack, its passing game, led by Tomizawa, overwhelmed the French resistance.

"Before the game, we were told by (our) head coach that we would go at our max from the beginning," Yoneyama said after the game. "It paid off and that makes me relieved."

Having built a huge lead, Abe sat Tomizawa in the second half and played back ups Kentaro Namiki and Takata Tetsuo. Undeterred Japan added three more touchdowns, including runs by running backs Koji Sugisawa and Takuya Furutani, with 7:08 and 0:19 left in the third quarter, respectively.

Japan was also outstanding defensively. Its defensive linemen overwhelmed their French counterparts and kept pressure on De Sa and backup Paul Durand, while the linebackers and defensive backs did not give the French receivers to room to catch a pass, throughout the contest.

"We don't only play today's game but will have some other games as well," said Japan defensive line man and captain Yasuo Wakisaka. "We wouldn't put our guards off from the beginning 'till the end so we can keep the momentum going for the next games."

Japan's next opponent will be Sweden.

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