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TOP > Game Report > Chips off the old blocks: Seagulls hold off BigBlue in wild Pearl Bowl final

Game Report

Chips off the old blocks: Seagulls hold off BigBlue in wild Pearl Bowl final

’17.06.21

Obic wide receiver Taro Mizuno scores on a 31-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter between IBM defenders Daichi Kozu (13) and Ryosuke Morioka. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

IBM’s James Brooks (34) blocks a field goal attempt by Takatoshi Hoshino in the second quarter. (photo by MI Planning)

 

 

 

TOKYO (June 19) -  It was a block party never before been seen at Tokyo Dome. In the end, the margin of victory for the championship game of the Pearl Bowl turned out to be the lone field goal attempt that made it past the line of scrimmage.

 

Newcomer Ikaika Woolsey threw three touchdown passes and the Obic Seagulls held on to dethrone the IBM BigBlue in a wild 29-27 victory before the crowd of 16,281 that saw a combined five field goal attempts, extra points or punts blocked.

 

“That’s why I don’t like playing these guys, too many crazy things happen,” said Obic defensive end B.J. Beatty, who blocked a punt on a play that only added to the bizarreness because IBM punter Toshiki Sato retrieved the ball and re-kicked it.

 

Obic wide receiver Taro Mizuno was named the game MVP after returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and hauling in a 31-yard touchdown pass  as the Seagulls won their sixth title overall and first in three years in the spring tournament for the X-League’s East Japan teams.

 

Adding to the mischief on a night in which hard rocker Demon Kakka provided the halftime entertainment, IBM also had a kickoff return for a touchdown, with Takashi Kurihara going 93 yards to pull IBM within two points midway through the fourth quarter. Kurihara also had two touchdown receptions while catching a game-high seven passes for 92 yards.

 

IBM got the ball back with 3:50 left in the game on its own 16-yard line and all three timeouts remaining. But the Obic defense stood tough, and the drive was snuffed when second-year quarterback Yuki Masamoto was called for intentional grounding while being sacked by linebacker Hitoshi Sakata on a third-down blitz.

 

“We were just trying to contain him,” Beatty said of Masamoto. “The kid is fast, I think he’s deceptively fast. We were trying to bring a lot of pressure. I know a lot of teams focus on me, when we blitz and things like that, so we were trying to show him other things.”

 

Masamoto threw for one touchdown and ran for another, while Kevin Craft, who saw limited action, also threw a touchdown pass for IBM, whose victory over the Lixil Deers in last year’s Pearl Bowl gave the team its first-ever major title.

 

IBM defensive end James Brooks, who preserved that 21-20 win over Lixil by batting down a pass on a final-play 2-point conversion attempt, was admittedly not his dominant self on Monday night.

 

But the 1.95-meter star still made his mark on the game by blocking two field goal attempts. The second came a short time after he had come out with painful cramps in his right calf, which would hamper him during the second half.

 

“A lot of it is luck, to be honest,” Brooks said of the blocks. “A lot of it is the right timing, and the trajectory of the kick. It has to be perfect. We have certain play calls based on film study, and that’s pretty much how it goes.”

 

Brooks, an all-League selection in each of his first three years with IBM, gives credit to the Obic offensive line, led by tackle Kai Maiava, for limiting him to just one tackle.

 

“Their O-line came to play,” Brooks said. “They came out and they mauled us a little bit. We got to get better. We’re right there, we didn’t get blown out or something like that. We didn’t feel like we were out of our league. But we have to tighten up the little things. We have to come out a little more aggressive.”

 

In a twist of fate, the two teams will return to Tokyo Dome on Sept. 5 to open the fall season against each other.

 

“We feel like we’re one of the best teams out here, and we just want to show our worth,” Brooks said. “We got a couple of things to improve, and we’ll be back Sept. 5, same time, same place.”

 

Woolsey, a California native out of Hawaii University who joined Obic to replace Jerry Neuheisel, completed 12 of 17 passes for 165 yards. He yielded the helm on two drives to veteran Shun Sugawara, who led the Seagulls into scoring position both times, but one ended with an interception at the goal line and the other with a blocked field goal.

 

“I’ve definitely never been in a game like that with those many (kick) blocks and change of possessions,” Woolsey said. “But it just goes to show that anything can happen in this game of football. You just have to be ready at all times, and when it came down to it, all the fellows on the team we stayed together and we just rallied behind each other.”

 

Woolsey took his knocks and was slowed down late in the game. But in the fourth quarter, he mainly only had to hand the ball off to bullish running back Asaki Mochizuki, whose grinding runs set up Obic’s final touchdown and helped run out the clock. He finished with 72 yards on 15 carries.

 

“Mochi is a beast,” Woolsey said. “I tell him that all the time. He runs hard. At times like that when it’s working, when the train is rolling, just keep feeding him the ball. Credit goes to the offensive line and the way they played tonight. All the guys up front did a great job of handling the trenches.”

 

Obic started the scoring when Takatoshi Hoshino capped the opening drive with a 37-yard field goal, an ordinary play in what would hardly be a normal game for the kickers.

 

The Seagulls got the ball back five plays later when Masamoto, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 201 yards, carelessly threw a pass into the left flat that defensive back Yudai Tanaka easily read and cut off for the first of two interceptions. He returned the ball to the IBM 15, from where Woolsey found Aruto Nishimura alone in the left corner of the end zone. Sugawara came in for a 2-point conversion attempt, but his pass was broken up, leaving Obic with a 9-0 lead.

 

After a 42-yard kickoff return by Kurihara, Masumoto engineered an 11-play, 58-yard drive that he capped by rifling a 3-yard touchdown pass to Kurihara just inside the goal line. But on a day when nothing was a sure thing, veteran Kevin Jackson used his full 1.93 meters to block Genki Odakura’s extra point attempt.

 

Then, to add to the buzz, Mizuno took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 96 yards to give Obic a 16-6 lead in a game that would at times turn testy, as twice there would be offsetting personal foul penalties.

 

IBM started the ensuing drive on its 0wn 17 and, by the time the second quarter started, had advanced into Obic territory. The BigBlue got down to the Obic 17, but three straight incompletions left them with Odakura attempting a 33-yard field goal — which also was blocked by Jackson.

 

Turnabout was fair play, however, as on Obic’s next drive, Brooks got his hands on a 33-yard field goal attempt by Hoshino.

 

After Obic failed to capitalize on Tanaka’s second interception off Masamoto, Craft came in and led an eight-play, 66-yard drive. After two incomplete passes at the Obic 6, Craft connected with a tight-roping Kurihara in the back of the end zone with 1:40 left in the half.

 

But Obic wasn’t finished. Starting at the 38, the Seagulls moved steadily forward and after Woolsey hit Mizuno for a 20-yard gain to the IBM 31, he found him again in full stride for a touchdown with :22 left as Obic took a 23-13 lead into halftime.

 

It was in the third quarter when things really got strange. First there was the blocked punt that ended up getting kicked again (as long as the ball doesn’t pass the line of scrimmage, it’s a legal play).  Then IBM defensive back Takato Yabe picked off Sugawara’s pass at the goal line.

 

IBM scored the lone points of the quarter when Masamoto ran around left end for a 2-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 79-yard drive that pulled the BigBlue within three points.

 

Beatty provided another highlight reel move when he fielded a short kickoff, hurdled over a defender and returned it to the IBM 42. With Sugawara taking the snaps, this drive saw Brooks come out with leg cramps.

 

Obic offensive coordinator Daniel Lynds said that the heat in Tokyo Dome during a spring  game can be deceptive.

 

“This is my fourth Pearl Bowl, it always is like this,” Lynds said. “It’s hot. And you don’t realize it’s hot, but when you’re wearing the pads, it’s hot out there. And the D-line wears down at the end.”

 

After getting down to the IBM 10 and Sugawara nearly throwing another interception, Obic lined up for another 33-yard field goal attempt by Hoshino. And once again, Brooks was there to block to the kick, having limped back onto the field.

 

That set the stage for the nail-biting fourth quarter, when Woolsey threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ryoma Hagiyama, and Kurihara followed that by returning the kickoff to end the scoring.

 

“We left a lot of meat on the bone,” Lynds said of the missed opportunities. “We had a lot of points that we left out there. Missed a lot of throws, dropped some balls, mis-executed some blocks. But very, very happy the way we grounded it out at the end. I’m proud of the guys.”

 

For Woolsey, overcoming adversity in just his fourth game bodes well as he prepares for the fall season, in which he hopes to lead the Seagulls to their first league title since they won an unprecedented four straight from 2010 to 2013.

 

“I think we had a good game,” he said. “It was kind of up and down. The defense played really well, and with them getting two turnovers, we need to capitalize on that. We only capitalized on one.

 

“I think it’s a learning curve. Obviously, it’s spring, that’s what it’s for. So we have to keep moving forward, keep getting better and just focus on that first game against IBM.”

 

—Ken Marantz for the X-League

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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