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Obic Seagulls rout IBM Big Blue to defend Pearl Bowl title

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Skyler Howard celebrated his Tokyo Dome debut with the MVP-winning performance that guided the Obic Seagulls to back-to-back Pearl Bowl championships.

Howard, a former West Virginia quarterback, threw two touchdown passes in his first appearance at Tokyo Dome to help the Seagulls beat the IBM BigBlue 28-2 on Thursday.

“I feel good about the way to cap off the spring season, but it is just the fourth game (for the current team) and we’re looking forward to the fifth game, which is our next step,” Howard said. “This Pearl Bowl (final) just happened to be the fourth game and we executed well. I feel we left a lot down on the table. I’m just excited to work with my teammates in summer.”

Howard joined the Seagulls earlier this year and earned the starting position during the Pearl Bowl tournament that started in April. His mobility and strong arm became new weapons for the Seagulls, who dominated the X League from 2010-2013 when the Chiba-based club won the national championship four straight years.

The Seagulls have not reached that level in the fall season since but won the Pearl Bowl for the second consecutive spring with two different quarterbacks under center. Last year, Ikaika Woolsey was the signal caller for them.

The Seagulls deployed a balanced offense, gaining 193 yards on the ground and 152 yards passing. Howard was the leading rusher in the game (63 yards), while running backs Asaki Mochizuki and Taku Ri added a rushing touchdown apiece.

Howard threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Noriaki Kinoshita in the first quarter and a 10-yarder to Holden Huff in the third.

Defensively, Keizaburo Isagawa and Yosuke Nakanishi both recorded interceptions to prevent Kevin Craft from finding his passing rhythm. The BigBlue offense was shut out and their only score came on a safety.

“We had a good spring season,” Obic head coach Naoki Kosho said. “We do not say we were able to do everything we wanted do. It was probably 60 or 70 percent. But the bottom line is we keep improving. The fall season is just a few months away.”