Japan 35, Mexico 7


By Brad Bournival

CANTON, Ohio – The way Japan – and especially defensive lineman Yasuo Wakisaka – saw it, its 35-7 win over Mexico on Wednesday was a return home.

Japan and Wakisaka have been to the International Federation of American Football World Championship finals three times prior, twice winning the gold medal.

With its convincing win over Mexico (0-2), Japan once again returned to the title match after a one-tournament hiatus, where it finished third in 2011.

And make no mistake, Japan, which is 11-3 in IFAFWC history, was very much driven to return to its fourth final in the five-tournament history of the games.

“One of the reasons why I’ve been continuing in the tournament is to show how good Japanese football is to the world,” the 46-year old Wakisaka said. “I think this will be my last chance. I want to do my best and hopefully win.”

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If Japan plays like it did against Mexico, there’s a solid chance Wakisaka and his teammates could hoist the trophy once again.

Japan had Mexico reeling almost immediately as Tetsuo Takata connected with Takashi Kurihara for 70 yards 79 seconds in. The two hooked up again later in the quarter on a 10-yard score.

Naoki Maeda found the end zone on a 17-yard pass from Takata, and Japan (1-1) walked into halftime up three scores. The offensive fireworks continued, and by the time it was over, Japan put up some impressive numbers.

Takata was 17-of-24 for 223 yards with three touchdowns, while Kurihara registered four catches for 87 yards and the two scores.

The running game averaged 6.4 yards per touch, while Taku Lee (7 carries, 31 yards) and Ryo Takagi (9, 26) each registered touchdowns.

“They’re a very ordered team,” Mexico linebacker Fernando Lozano said. “They had each play very well timed, and we played in a very disorganized way.”

On the flip side, Japan’s defense was on point as defensive linemen Ryota Takahashi (5 tackles, sack) and Tori Hirasawa (4½, sack, two tackles for loss) disrupted the offensive flow for Mexico.

It forced Roberto Vega (11-of-21, 136 yards, touchdown) into four interceptions and caused havoc all afternoon.

“We don’t have good size, so we swarm the ball,” Japan head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “We go out and get the ball. They never give up.”

The win brings a few interesting matchups as Japan will play either the United States (2-0) or France (2-0) on Saturday.

The U.S. picked up an IFAF record 580 yards in a 43-18 win against Japan on Sunday and has never lost a tournament game. That includes two wins against the Japanese.

Japan hasn’t played France yet in this tournament, but holds two wins in the IFAFWC against the French.

“The first game, we completely lost to the United States,” Mori said. “I made some bad decisions as coach. I want to show them how good we can play. This will be a good opportunity, but we have to play as good as possible. It doesn’t change if it’s France.”