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Cameron, Fujitsu Frontiers aim for Pearl Bowl title

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Fujitsu’s Colby Cameron tries to become the first American quarterback to win an X League title game as his Frontiers play the Obic Seagulls on Monday in the Pearl Bowl Final, the championship game of the X League’s annual spring tournament, at Tokyo Dome.

Cameron, a former Louisiana Tech quarterback, made his debut this April in the Frontiers’ 93-0 rout of the Hurricanes and has made a major impact on the Fujitsu offense since then.

Though he had never watched American football in Japan before joining the Frontiers earlier this year, Cameron has had three starts under his belt and improved his combination with receivers. In the three games he has started, Cameron completed 53 of 76 passes for 634 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing two interceptions.

On Monday, Cameron faces two outstanding American defensive ends — Kevin Jackson and Byron Beatty Jr. — of the Seagulls. The 193-cm Jackson uses his speed and quickness to constantly pressure the quarterback off the edge. He has two sacks this spring. Beatty is more powerful and also good against run.

The Frontiers can turn to their running attack to counter the Seagulls pass rush. The Frontiers have two reliable backs in Geno Gordon and Keita Takanohashi. Gordon has rushed for 385 yards and six scores, while Takanohashi added 265 yards and one touchdown.

For the Seagulls, the four-time defending national champion of the fall season, the Frontiers are the only team to have beaten them in the last four years. The Frontiers defeated the Seagulls 31-13 in the semifinals of last year’s Pearl Bowl Tournament, stopping the Seagulls’ combined winning streak of the spring and fall seasons at 37 games. The Seagulls avenged that loss with a 24-16 victory in the Japan X Bowl for the X League championship last December, though.

The Seagulls have used several quarterbacks this spring, including rookie Takushiro Hata, who played for collegiate champion Kwansei Gakuin University two seasons ago, but Shun Sugawara has had the majority of playing time.

Short for a quarterback at 172 cm, Sugawara uses a quick release and smart decision-making aptitude to make up for his size. The fact that he led the Seagulls to the four national championships proves that size is not a setback for him.

Sugawara’s main target is Noriaki Kinoshita, who joined the Atlanta Falcons training camp in 2007 and 2008. He has caught 21 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow receiver Ryoma Hagiwara added 189 yards and four scores on 13 receptions.

The Seagulls seek their first Pearl Bowl title in two years and eighth overall. The Frontiers, meanwhile, hope to capture their third title and first since 2010.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Popular idol group Nogizaka 46 will perform the halftime show with X League cheerleaders.