Mizuno leads Seagulls past BigBlue in Pearl Bowl final


Wide receiver Taro Mizuno scored two touchdowns — one on a 98-yard kickoff return and the other on a 31-yard pass from Ikaika Woolsey — to lead the Obic Seagulls to a 29-27 victory over the defending champion IBM BigBlue in the Pearl Bowl final on Monday at Tokyo Dome.

The Seagulls extended their Pearl Bowl record to six titles by winning their first since 2014.

“I’ve been in good shape since the game against Lixil (in the semifinal on June 4) and I kept that momentum,” Mizuno said. “This is just spring and none of the teams in the league have done enough preparation for the fall. But unless you reach a certain level, you can’t win in the fall. So this win was important for us.

“(On the touchdown reception) Ikaika threw a great pass. Sometimes it’s very hard to catch up to his deep throws, but it’s a lot of fun for the receivers.”

The Seagulls took an early 9-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Takatoshi Hoshino in their first possession and Yuto Nishimura’s 15-yard scoring reception (kick failed). The BigBlue cut the margin to 9-6 when Yuki Masamoto threw a 3-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Takashi Kurihara, who also scored a kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter.

But the Seagulls wasted no time in widening their lead to 16-9 on Mizuno’s return touchdown.

After both teams saw a field goal attempt blocked in the second quarter, Kurihara’s second touchdown reception made the game 16-13 with 1:40 remaining in the second quarter. But Mizuno ran into the end zone once again, this time with a 31-yard scoring strike from Woolsey, a rookie quarterback from the University of Hawaii, for a 23-13 halftime score.

It was the BigBlue that took the early momentum in the second half as Takato Yabe’s interception set up a 12-play scoring drive that was capped by Masamoto’s 2-yard run.

Another blocked field goal for the Seagulls kept their lead to three points, but they started to run down the clock going into the final quarter. During a scoring drive that started at the Obic 18 with 10:40 to play, running back Asaki Mochizuki carried the ball five straight downs and earned three first downs. By the time Ryoma Hagiyama capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception (kick failed), the Seagulls ran 4:24 off the clock midway in the fourth quarter.

In the next kickoff, Kurihara scored on 93-yard kickoff return to make it 29-27, but the BigBlue ended their final possession with a three-and-out, allowing the Seagulls to run out the clock.

“It feels good, because we haven’t won at Tokyo Dome in a long time, so the majority of our team hasn’t experienced any kind of a title. So it’s good for the young guys to experience winning here,” Obic defensive end Kevin Jackson said.

“It was our effort in all phases. Today, our special teams were huge for us. We had a kickoff return touchdown, we had some kicks we were able to block. Yeah, I think we did well enough in all phases and it helped us get the win.”

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