Two touchdowns from the special teams unit made up for a sluggish performance by the offense as the reigning Pearl Bowl champion Obic Seagulls defeated the Lixil Deers 23-10 on Sunday at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki.

The Seagulls won the semifinal matchup and advanced to the Pearl Bowl final for the sixth time in their last eight chances (the tournament was not held in 2011 and 2015 because of the world championship of American football) and will play the IBM BigBlue for the second straight year on June 28 at Tokyo Dome.

The Seagulls, who normally have a high-scoring offense, struggled on that side of the ball, scoring an offensive touchdown with 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter and being shut out in the second half.

Quarterback Skyler Howard, a West Virginia product, was just 13-of-29 passing for 164 yards. His lone touchdown pass was an outstanding 46-yarder to Taro Mizuno.

“We did not play well and had a lot of penalties on offense,” Seagulls head coach Naoki Kosho said. “But the kicking teams and defense stood up to make up for it. We showed improvement from the last game in those two areas. Luckily, we have one more game to play this spring and can use this opportunity to get ready for the fall season.”

After scoring on a field goal, the Seagulls took a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter when Yuki Ikei returned a punt 77 yards for a score. Five minutes later, defensive end Byron Beaty Jr. blocked a punt by Lixil’s Daisuke Aoki and fellow-defender Kevin Jackson picked up the ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

Howard’s scoring pass gave the Seagulls a 23-0 halftime lead, which turned out to be too much for the Deers, whose comeback effort fell short with a touchdown and a field goal in the second half.

In the other semifinal game at Kawasaki, Toshiki Sato kicked a 19-yard field goal in overtime to give the BigBlue a 24-21 victory over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise. Kevin Craft threw two touchdown passes and Takashi Kurihara returned a kickoff 89 yards for a score for the BigBlue, who made the Pearl Bowl final for the third straight season.

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