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Deers win Pearl Bowl

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Running back Yasuhiro Maruta scored the winning touchdown on a 9-yard rush with 3:27 remaining to lead the Kajima Deers to a 20-17 comeback win over the Obic Seagulls in the annual Pearl Bowl final on Friday night at Tokyo Dome. With the victory, the Deers captured their second straight Pearl Bowl title and seventh overall.

“In the first half, the Seagulls played more aggressive than us,” Kajima head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. “We decided to play more aggressively in the second half. We had some mistakes by the bench, but the players overcame them to win the game.”

The Seagulls took a 3-0 lead on Yosuke Kaneoya’s 33-yard field goal with 10:56 left in the second quarter, and four minutes later Manabu Tatsumura threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ken Shimizu. It was the first touchdown the Deers had allowed in the Pearl Bowl tournament this season. The Deers had given up only two field goals in the past three games.

Right after the Seagulls widened their lead to 10-0, however, Kajima’s Yasushi Nakagawa returned the kickoff 93 yards for a score to make the game 10-7 at halftime.

The Deers managed to tie the game when Hiromichi Kashima booted a 23-yard field goal 7:10 into the third quarter.

The final quarter turned out to be a thrilling seesaw battle that saw two turnovers, both by the Seagulls.

The Seagulls made the best of the turnovers as linebacker Naoki Kosho sacked Deers quarterback Yosuke Ozaki, forcing a fumble, then picked up the ball and rumbled 45 yards for a score with 9:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Deers defense answered later in that quarter by scoring a safety with 4:41 to go to cut the Seagulls’ lead to five points.

On the ensuing possession Maruta capped a three-play, 50-yard winning drive for the Deers. Maruta then caught a pass from Ozaki for a two-point conversion, making the score 20-17 for the Deers.

The Seagulls advanced to Kajima’s 16-yard line with 1:22 to play, but Kaneoya’s field goal attempt sailed wide left to end the game.

Maruta was named the game’s MVP.