By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001
CLEARWATER -- Japan assistant coach Nakazawa Kazunari showed off the thick offensive playbook his team planned to use during the Global Junior Championship V this week in Clearwater.
Then he slammed it on a table.
Japan, a smaller team accustomed to using shifts, motion, even the option to showcase its speed, wasn't allowed to use any of it during Wednesday's semifinal against Canada.
The all-star format adopted for this week's games forbid any exotic formations, including the shotgun, option and any shifts or motion.
That hurt Japan as it lost 26-8.
Canada plays the United States in the final at 7 p.m. Saturday. The United States won the other semifinal 49-3 over Europe. In the consolation game, Japan plays Europe at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"This game we played out here, it looks like football, but it's not football," Kazunari said. "We like wide-open football. Here, it is just collision, collision, then everybody falls down. That's not football."
It's understandable Japan would prefer a wide-open attack considering the size differential. For instance, Canada's quarterback, Stephan Larosiliere, weighs 247 pounds, more than any player on Japan's roster.
Nevertheless, Japan held its own and trailed only 6-2 at halftime.
But in the second half, Canada's smashmouth offense wore down Japan and started making big plays.
"It wasn't real fancy what we were doing out there," Canada coach Ian Breck said. "The rules decided that for us."
Usually, Canada favors a more wide-open attack, too. They use four-, five-, even six-wide receiver sets and play on a wider field. With the rules limiting their formations, Canada stayed on the ground and ran behind an offensive line that averaged 280 pounds.
Larosiliere benefitted the most from his line's play. He had two long runs to set up touchdown runs of 4 yards by Alexis Bwenge and 31 yards by Nick Wishart. Canada's other quarterback, Jonathan Williams, also threw a touchdown pass in the second half to round out the scoring.
"I was surprised by the Japan team," Larosiliere said. "I thought they wouldn't know how to hit. But they had great speed and weren't afraid of contact."
For Kazunari, he said he hopes the rules are changed next season for his offense.
"No limitations," he said.
Yet by adapting to the different rules, Kazunari said his team gained a valuable lesson.
"We learned how to fight with big boys," he said.