Nihon University quarterback Ryosuke Nishizawa hit Hiroaki Yoshino with an 11-yard scoring strike and a successful two-point conversion tied the Tokyo Bowl at 17-17 with 1:16 remaining on Sunday.

The score didn’t change as the Phoenix and their archrival Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters shared the bowl championship at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.

The schools played each other in a postseason game for the third consecutive year. They fought for the collegiate national championship the previous two seasons, with the Fighters winning both times.

This year, however, the rivals played in a battle of the runners-up: the second-ranked Phoenix (7-1), whose only loss came against Waseda University (8-0) in the Kanto League; and the Fighters (7-1), who missed their fifth consecutive Kansai championship by falling to Ritsumeikan University (8-0).

Next Sunday, Ritsumeikan faces Waseda in the Koshien Bowl for the collegiate crown at Koshien Stadium.

Despite playing for nothing but pride, both teams denied they had little motivation coming into the game.

“We were disappointed when we missed the chance to play in the Koshien Bowl, but playing the Fighters motivated us a lot,” Nihon University captain Kei Inoue said. “The Fighters, the collegiate champion the last four years, were the team to beat. We appreciated the chance to play them in Tokyo Bowl.”

Kwansei Gakuin head coach Hideaki Toriuchi said, “Seeing off the seniors with a victory was my goal today. We are still developing as a team, but through the preparation for this game the last two weeks, the seniors grew up. I’m happy about that.”

The Fighters’ first two drives ended on interceptions and the Phoenix converted the second one into a 35-yard field goal with 6:10 left in the first quarter. The Fighters countered with Seiji Hashimoto’s 7-yard TD run 31 seconds into the second quarter and widened their lead to 14-3 when Mitsuhiro Izu threw a 20-yard TD pass to Ryosuke Nonogaki early in the third period.

The Phoenix finally found the end zone 5:18 into the final quarter when Nishizawa capped a 8-play, 45-yard drive, which started after the fourth of five Kwansei Gakuin interceptions, with a 3-yards TD rush (kick failed) to cut the Fighters’ lead to five points.

Three minutes later, a 35-yard field goal by the Fighters made it an eight-point game.

The Phoenix’s game-tying drive started at their own 26-yard line. They converted two fourth downs during a 14-play drive that consumed nearly 5 minutes.

The Phoenix got the ball back again and advanced to the Fighters’ 32 with 9 seconds remaining, but their field goal attempt sailed wide right to give the Fighters one more play. Izu threw a Hail Mary pass that was intercepted to end the game.

Due to game regulations, no overtimes or tiebreaks are played and the teams shared the championship.

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