Tadanori Sano intercepted twice and Tatsuya Shida scored the decisive touchdown, leading the Kajima Deers to a 17-7 victory over the Onward Skylarks in the final of the annual Pearl Bowl tournament on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

News photoYasushi Horiguchi (left) of the Kajima Deers weaves through the Onward
Skylarks’ defense to score a touchdown in the second quarter of the Pearl Bowl final at Tokyo

It was Kajima’s first Pearl Bowl title in two years and fourth in last seven seasons.

Both teams struggled on offense early in the game, but the Deers drew first blood on a 1-yard touchdown run by 33-year-old running back Yasushi Horiguchi with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter (extra point attempt failed).

The Skylarks, however, wasted no time in responding, taking a 7-6 lead on Koji Sugisawa’s 1-yard scoring run with 91 seconds left in the first half.

In the third quarter, reserve quarterback Kazuyoshi Suzuki replaced starter Naoki Sasano and set the tone for the Deers.

Starting the first offensive drive of the second half at Onward’s 44-yard line, Suzuki completed 4 of 6 passes and capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown strike to Shida.

After succeeding a two-point conversion and forcing the Skylarks to punt, the Deers took the control of the game with a 22-play scoring drive that ate up 6:57 off the clock and ended with a 28-yard field goal.

Sano picked off Onward quarterback Yuuichi Tomizawa’s passes twice later on to kill the Skylarks’ offensive opportunities.

Suzuki went 14-of-21 for 102 yards and a score in the game.

Sano was named the game’s MVP.

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