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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Maruta leads Deers to Pearl Bowl title

Staff writer

Kajima Deers running back Yasuhiro Maruta rushed for a team-high 77 yards and three scores on 11 carries, leading his team to a 27-14 victory over the Fujitsu Frontiers in the 32nd Pearl Bowl final on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.

With the victory, the Deers clinched their first Pearl Bowl championship since 2004 and sixth overall. "We managed to take advantage of the Frontiers' mistakes to win tonight," Kajima head coach Kiyoyuki Mori said. "We're relieved to win this game, but we found our own problems to be fixed. We'll fix them and get prepared for the fall season."

Playing before a crowd of 15,326, the Deers capitalized on their opponent's mistakes for their first two scores.

On their first possession, the Deers were forced to punt after three plays, but thanks to a Frontiers' penalty, they kept the drive alive and capped it with a 36-yard field goal by Hiromichi Kashima.

On the next Fujitsu drive, the Frontiers made a mistake on a punt snap, giving the ball back to the Deers at Fujitsu's 1-yard line. Two plays later, Maruta rushed for a touchdown, giving Kajima a 10-0 first-quarter lead.

The Frontiers found their rhythm in the second quarter as quarterbacks Motoki Yoshida and Akihiro Izuhara set the tune for the offense. Early in the period, the Frontiers marched 57 yards on eight plays to cut the Deers' lead to 10-7. Running back Takumi Hirasawa finished the drive with a 1-yard TD dive.

After Kajima countered with a 25-yard field goal on its next possession, Yoshida and Izuhara, alternating at QB, guided the team on another TD drive when Izuhara hit tight end Yuji Oya with an 18-yard scoring pass. That made it 14-13 with 2:39 to play in the first half.

In the second half, however, the Deers were revived by the Frontiers' miscues again. A muffed punt by Fujitsu kept a Kajima drive alive and led to the winning touchdown by Maruta 34 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Maruta added another touchdown with 1 minute left, putting the game out of the Frontiers' reach.

Maruta was named the game's MVP.

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