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TOP > Game Report > IBM knocks off Nojima to make 1st-ever Pearl Bowl final

Game Report

IBM knocks off Nojima to make 1st-ever Pearl Bowl final


IBM defensive end James Brooks makes a tackle against Nojima.



KAWASAKI (May 29)—Helped by defensive end James Brooks’ first appearance of the spring, the IBM BigBlue earned their first-ever spot in the final of the Pearl Bowl.


Brooks made his presence felt as the BigBlue held the Nojima Sagamihara Rise scoreless through three quarters, then held off a late surge for a 34-21 victory in the semifinals at Fujitsu Kawasaki Stadium.


Tomokazu Sueyoshi rushed for 135 yards on 17 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown romp that iced the victory in the fourth quarter, as the BigBlue earned a trip to the final on June 13 at Tokyo Dome against the Lixil Deers, who earlier defeated the Obic Seagulls.


“Until the third quarter, I think it was good,” IBM head coach Shinzo Yamada said. “And then we put the second-string guys in. A bit sloppy at the end. But those things happen, and we have to fix that.”


Brooks, a two-time All X-League selection out of Arizona State, had missed the BigBlue’s preliminary group game, but hardly missed a beat before the crowd of 3,015 as he blocked a punt, batted down two passes, had a sack and was part of a gang tackle for a safety.


“I’ve been training, I try to stay in as good a shape as I can,” Brooks said. “It felt good today.

I expect it of myself. I have to be a leader on this team. We kind of know that they’re going to focus on me in most game plans, so we try to get other guys involved. When that happens, I get freed up to make plays, and that’s exactly what we want.”


It wasn’t until Brooks and other IBM starters headed to the sidelines that Nojima was able to generate any kind of offense, but it proved too little, too late.


“He’s a game-changer,” Yamada said of Brooks. “He does everything, he stops the run. It was great. He’s healthy, but he was a little bit banged up in the second half, so we stopped playing him.”


Brooks’ blocked punt in the first quarter gave the BigBlue the ball on the Nojima 7. But a personal foul penalty set them back and they had to settle for Genki Odakura’s 34-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead going into the second period. Odakura had missed a 32-yard attempt on IBM’s first series, after Takeshi Kurihara returned the opening kickoff 68 yards to the Nojima 32.


In the second quarter, the IBM offense got in gear and put three touchdowns on the board to take a 25-0 lead into halftime. Rookie Yuki Masamoto threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to John Stanton, Ryo Takagi scored on a 12-yard run, and Kevin Craft and Kurihara connected on a 14-yard TD toss.


IBM’s lone points in the third quarter came on a safety after a Toshiki Sato punt was downed at the Nojima 1. On the second play, Brooks and Co. nailed Yohei Hosono in the end zone to make it 27-0.


Five minutes into the fourth quarter, Nojima’s Ryo Fujimoto threw the first of three touchdown passes on three straight possessions, a 3-yarder to Yuhei Yagi.


But IBM, which had a Sato field goal attempt blocked earlier in the quarter, limited the damage on the next play from scrimmage. An onside kick attempt gave the BigBlue the ball on the Nojima 46, and Sueyoshi rambled all the way for a touchdown.


On the Rise’s next two series, Fujimoto connected with Takahide Dejima on a 49-yard touchdown pass on the first play following a long kickoff return, and then with Yagi from 31 yards out. Nojima recovered the onside kick after the third score, but that drive ended with rookie linebacker Keigo Sakudo intercepting a Fujimoto pass at the IBM 5.


Fujimoto finished 12 of 22 for 207 yards with one interception. Starter Yuichiro Araki was 14 of 26 for 103 yards.


IBM’s Craft was 6 of 15 for 77 yards after failing to complete his last six attempts, while Masamoto completed 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League