Daiki Matsubayashi made a spectacular catch in the end zone for the winning touchdown with 1:12 left in the game to lead the Fujitsu Frontiers to a 15-13 triumph over the Obic Seagulls on Thursday in the X League’s Pearl Bowl Final at Tokyo Dome.
With the win, the Frontiers captured their first Pearl Bowl title since 2006 and third overall.
With the Seagulls up 13-9 in the late fourth quarter, Akihiro Izuhara found Matsubayashi wide open along the right sideline. Izuhara threw a perfect loop and Matsubayashi caught it by sliding in the end zone. That performance earned the 24-year-old wide receiver the game’s MVP honor.
After the go-ahead touchdown that made the score 15-13, however, Fujitsu head coach Satoshi Fujita made a questionable decision by calling for a two-point conversion. That conversion failed and the Seagulls stayed within two points, which meant a field goal would have given the Seagulls their fourth Pearl Bowl championship.
“We decided to go for it, because we didn’t want to go into the overtime,” Fujita said. “Their kickoff returns were pretty good tonight, and I thought they would’ve had a chance to advance to field-goal range. We wanted to make the situation that they need a touchdown to win the game.”
Fujita’s decision almost became the crucial mistake when the Seagulls advanced to Fujitsu’s 31-yard line with 6 seconds to go. But a 48-yard field goal try by Yosuke Kaneoya, who made a field goal of the same length in the semifinal game against Meiji Yasuda three weeks ago, fell short.
“The players made up for my mistake today,” Fujita said.
Before a crowd of 14,066, the game started as a defensive one when both teams only scored two field goals apiece in the first half.
The Frontiers went ahead 9-6 on a 22-yard field goal early in the third quarter, but the Seagulls quickly countered with a 44-yard touchdown run by Masatoshi Sugihara on the next possession.
With 4:02 to go in the game, the Seagulls had possession, and they could have run out the clock. But Fujitsu forced the Seagulls into a three-and-out and earned back possession with 1:35 left. The Frontiers got first downs two plays in a row before Izuhara hit Matsubayashi for the winning score.