Japan wins close Pacific Rim Bowl 28-21

Shunsuke Wada caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from Shoma Taniguchi midway through the fourth quarter and the Japan All-Stars held off Ashland the rest of the way for a 28-21 victory in the highest-scoring Pacific Rim Bowl ever Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The exhibition win was Japan’s fourth straight and fifth overall in the 10-game series, which dates back to 1988. Ashland put up its best fight since the 1999 PRB, however, tying the game at 21 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“What a great game regardless of the score,” Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. “I’m always disappointed when we don’t win a game — I guess I need to be realistic about some of the mistakes that were made that are very correctable.”

One of those mistakes, a fumble on a punt return, set up Japan’s first touchdown, a 15-yard Taniguchi-to-Wada hook-up.

Ashland scored first on Matt Dierks’ 22-yard pass to Lewis Sebrell on the Grizzlies’ opening drive. Sebrell led Ashland with 118 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and two TDs, while Dierks completed 14 of 23 passes for 167 yards, one score and no interceptions.

Two Japan TDs followed, and Ashland tied the game on Julian Ewald’s 19-yard spin-and-burst with 2:34 to go in the first half. Japan reclaimed the lead on Masaki Matsubara’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Yusuke Sagehari with 32 seconds left in the half.

Wada caught four passes for 102 receiving yards and three scores while Matsubara had five catches for 85 yards. On the decisive play, Wada caught Taniguchi’s pass in stride down the right sideline on third-and-11.

“The was the best pass for our team,” Japan coach Toshio Sakurama said, through an interpreter.

Sebrell’s second score, a 14-yard run, opened the fourth quarter. Ashland then stalled on its last two drives, failing to move the ball beyond their own 45. The Grizzlies’ last gasp was thwarted when Dierks was drilled from behind on a fourth-and-10 pass with 42 seconds to go.

— Pacific Rim Bowl X - Japan All-Stars vs. Ashland High School

— Second-half of Pacific Rim Football game (edited)

— The All-Stars from Japan took a trip to nearby Crater Lake for fun in the sun.

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