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Skyler Howard leads Seagulls past Frontiers into Pearl Bowl semifinals

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Skyler Howard threw two touchdown passes and set up another score to guide the Obic Seagulls to a 21-6 victory over the reigning national champion Fujitsu Frontiers on Sunday at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.

The Seagulls finished the Pearl Bowl Tournament group stage with a 2-0 record and advanced to the semifinals, where they will face the Lixil Deers on June 10.

Howard, a former West Virginia quarterback, hit Taro Mizuno with a 55-yard pass in the third play of the game, setting up a 14-yard scoring run by Taku Ri the following play.

Early in the second quarter, Howard connected with Noriaki Kinoshita with a 53-yard perfect touchdown toss.

“It was a great route. I told (Kinoshita) just to win in the route,” Howard said. “He is a great wide receiver. He won and scored.”

Howard added another scoring pass, a 25-yarder to Takahiro Nozaki, in the second quarter but had none in the second half, which saw no scores from either side.

“We were good in the first half, but kind of stalled, slowed down in the second half. We really work on second-half adjustment and make those adjustments next week,” Howard said. “It was the opposite last week. We did better in the second half than the first half in the last game. So if we put a complete game together and we have good first half and second half, we’ll be OK.”

The Frontiers, who lost quarterback Colby Cameron and running back Gino Gordon to retirement after last season, struggled offensively and failed to score a touchdown.

“We have new players this spring and it is significant for us to take a step forward by beating our rival Fujitsu,” said the Seagulls’ third-year head coach Naoki Kosho. “Our receivers have adjusted to Howard’s passing. We want to show an even better version of the Seagulls against the Deers.”

Asked about the Nihon University violent tackle scandal, Kosho said he told the players to win back fans by showing them a good game.

“There might be fans who are coming to watch a football game for the first time,” he said. “We want them to love the game. We have a lot of things to say about this issue, but we will let our play speak for itself.”

In the other game on Sunday, former Boise State quarterback Jimmy Laughrea threw a 26-yard touchdown pass in his debut in Japan to help the Nojima Sagamihara Rise defeat the Asahi Beer Silver Star 30-10. The Rise take on the IBM BigBlue on June 10 in the other semifinal game.