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New-look Deers rout Bulls in Pearl Bowl tournament opener

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

With a new sponsor, new logo, new team color and some new players, the two-time national champion Deers returned to the football field. But this remains the same old thing: They are still one of the elite teams in the X League.

The Deers, formerly owned by Kajima Corp., made their first appearance as a club team sponsored by Lixil Corp. on Tuesday to play the Bulls in the opener of the Pearl Bowl tournament at Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium.

Wearing the new orange jersey instead of the old burgundy uniform, the Deers scored on nine touchdowns and a field goal for a 65-0 rout of the Bulls. The offense rang up 586 total yards, while the defense held the Bulls to only 146 yards.

But their performance was way short of satisfying head coach Kiyoyuki Mori, who is also the Japan national coach. Asked if he felt relieved to get the first win of the season as a new team, Mori said, “we haven’t reached that stage yet.”

“We played a lot of young players including rookies today, but the game got slowed down when they replaced the starters,” Mori said. “You have to show good plays enough to attract the fans. That is our responsibility as a football team.”

Starting quarterback Shohei Kato threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter and backup Hiroyuki Obayashi tossed two more and scored another in the second half. Defensively, Kenjiro Odate, Yuki Shimizu and rookie Rei Egawa each intercepted a pass and Shimizu returned his pick 24 yards for a score.

The Deers marched 60 yards on nine plays on their first possession and Yoshinari Iwakura scored the first touchdown for Lixil to cap the drive on a 3-yard run 5:58 into the game. The Deers took possession back soon after on a fumble recovery, then Kato hit Yasushi Nakagawa with a 1-yard strike with 6:33 remaining in the first quarter.

Kato threw a scoring pass to Yuto Fujimori two minutes later and Odate’s interception set up Yasuhiro Maruta’s 9-yard touchdown run that capped the Deer’s 27-point attack in the opening period.

After a scoreless second quarter, Obayashi threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Kento Suzuki on the opening drive of the second half, followed by Daisuke Aoki’s 34-yard field goal and Shimizu’s interception return touchdown. Then Obayashi tossed another scoring pass to Hirokazu Tanaka with 1:11 left in the third quarter.

The Deers controlled the clock in the final quarter and Obayashi and rookie quarterback Yukai Takagi each scored a rushing touchdown to wrap up the win.

In the other game on Tuesday, Nojima Sagamihara Rise defeated Tokyo Gas Creators 45-6.