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TOP > Game Report > Never-say-die Deers cap late comeback with OT win over Rise

Game Report

Never-say-die Deers cap late comeback with OT win over Rise



Lixil linebacker Akira Ando intercepts a pass in the end zone to end Nojima’s drive during the overtime tiebreaker.




KAWASAKI (Sept. 10)—The Lixil Deers showed that their ability to seize victory from the jaws of defeat didn’t end in the spring.


Lixil overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the second half to tie the game, then defeated the star-crossed Nojima Sagahimihara Rise 24-21 on Daisuke Aoki’s 22-yard field goal in the first tiebreaker session.


The Rise went first in the tiebreaker and drove to the 9-yard-line, only to come up empty when linebacker Akira Ando picked off a Devin Gardner pass in the end zone. That came after Nojima’s chance to win the game in regulation ended when Gardner threw his third interception of the game with 2:21 left.


The Deers are now 2-0 coming off their runnerup finish in the spring Pearl Bowl tournament, in which they pulled off miraculous victories over both the Fujitsu Frontiers and Obic Seagulls with last-minute touchdowns. For the Rise, it was another heartbreaking loss after they opened the season by falling 14-13 to Obic.


Before the crowd of 1,226 at Fujitsu Kawasaki Stadium, Gardner got the Rise off to hot start by throwing a pair of touchdown passes to former Michigan teammate Jeremy Gallon on their first two drives. Gardner also ran 18 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter to put the Rise ahead 21-7.


Lixil cut the gap to one score later in the third quarter when Tomoya Okabe rushed for his second touchdown of the game on a 4th-and-goal gamble from the 1. That drive was set up when Katsuya Nakagawa’s 45-yard punt return gave the Deers the ball on the Rise 23.


The tying touchdown came 4:22 into the fourth quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Shohei Kato to Yasuhiro Miyamoto, which had been preceded by a 43-yard completion to Kento Suzuki on 3rd-and 12.


With plenty of time on the clock and the ball on the 27, Gardner started the Rise off on what appeared to be the winning drive. Over 11 plays that included a 7-yard completion on a 4th-and-1 at the Deers 37, the 1.93-meter marched the Rise down to the 11.


But on what seemed like a miscommunication with his receiver, his quick pass over the middle went right into the hands of defensive back Hidetoshi Yano, who made his second interception of the game.


Yano returned the ball to the 32, but Lixil’s bid to put together a winning drive over the final two minutes gained little traction and was set back by an offensive pass interference penalty.


Gardner, who finished 28 of 41 for 399 yards, needed just three plays to get the Rise on the scoreboard on their opening drive of the game. He connected with Gallon on passes of 47 and 13 yards before finishing it off with a 2-yard touchdown pass.


After the defense held the Deers to 3-and-out, Gardner threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Gallon to cap a four-play (all completed passes), 65-yard drive to make it 14-0 just 6:03 into the game. Gallon finished with nine receptions for 132 yards.


The Rise got the ball back on rookie defensive back Kenya Watanabe’s interception of a Kato pass, but gave it back when Gardner fumbled at the Deers 12 and Toru Hirasawa recovered.


Midway through the second quarter, another Rise drive was cut short when defensive back Keisuke Waki picked off a long Gardner pass at the Deers 16. This time, Lixil took advantage and Kato engineered a 12-play, 84-yard drive that was capped by Okabe’s 7-yard run.


Lixil had another chance to cut the gap just before halftime, but Aoki missed a 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the second quarter.


Kato completed 27 of 39 passes for 278 yards, while Suzuki and Naoki Maeda had six receptions each for 74 and 77 yards, respectively.


Lixil, looking for its first league title since 2009, next faces Obic on Sept. 25 at the Seagulls’ “home” field in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture. Next up for Nojima are the Tokyo Gas Creators on Sept. 22 in Kawasaki.


—Ken Marantz for the X-League