Three first-half scores and linebacker Kevin Coghlan’s 27-yards interception return for a touchdown helped lead Japan to a 27-6 win over France in the second game of the 2012 IFAF U19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Coghlan earned Player of the Game honors for Japan. He also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and averaged 40.5 yards on four punts.
“We are happy to be going into the semifinals,” Colghan said. “Winning this game is very important, but winning the next game is even more important.”
Japan advances to a July 4 second-round game that could be a rematch of the 2009 semifinal against Canada. Canada plays Sweden later tonight. France will play July 3 against the loser of Canada vs. Sweden.
“We were not able to play at their speed, and we only had three practices before we arrived here, so we knew it would be tough,” France coach Olivier Moret said. “The good thing is that we were much better in the second half. We’re going to prepare in a better way for the second game.”
After three-and-outs by both teams to start the game, France’s short, 20-yard punt set Japan’s offense at the France 33-yard line.
Japan settled for a 22-yard field goal from Nanami Ariwa for a 3-0 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter. The drive featured a 14-yard completion from Kyogo Kishimura to Satoshi Sagino and a 12-yard run by James Takada.
French mistakes set up the next two Japan scores. On France’s next snap, Coghlan stepped in front of a Mathias Soler pass and returned it 25 yards for a score to extend Japan’s lead to 10-0.
On the first play of the next series, France fumbled and Japan recovered at the France 22-yard line. After a false start to start the drive, Japan moved 27 yards in four plays and pushed the lead to 17-0 on a Takada 1-yard run with five seconds left in the first quarter.
Japan took over its next possession at its 17-yard line and backup quarterback Saeki Ryunosuke orchestrated an 11-play, 83-yard drive that was capped by Sagino’s second rushing touchdown, this one from 15 yards out, to push Japan’s lead to 24-0 with 1:37 left in the half.
Japan stretched the lead to 27-0 on a 38-yard field goal by Ariwa midway through the third quarter.
France then put together its first sustained drive of the day. Soler picked up 37 yards on a quarterback scramble, and Japan aided the French effort with a 15-yard facemask penalty before running back Nicolas Khandar broke loose on a 26-yard touchdown run with 1:50 to go in the third quarter. The score remained 27-6 after a blocked PAT attempt.
France looked to have caught a break early in the fourth quarter when Japan fumbled a punt and it was recovered by France’s Maxime Venot Petit at the Japan 23. But Khandar had the ball knocked loose on the next play, and Japan took over at its own 15 to end the threat.
Safety Carl Tembo was named France’s MVP after posting eight tackles, including seven solo stops.