They’ve tried and failed each year since the inception of a friendly football game pitting Japanese vs. DODEA and Tokyo international school players each March to make those annual contests close ones. The first four times they teed it up, Team USA clobbered Team Rising Sun to the tune of 236-51. Then came last March 7, when Japan got its revenge, overwhelming the American side to the tune of 100-22 at Amino Vital Stadium in Tokyo’s western suburbs. Might Sunday’s renewal of the Tomodachi Bowl be the close battle that each side has hoped for so long? Team USA head coach and one of the game’s founders, Tim Pujol of Yokota, says he and the Japanese side feel they’ve come up with the right formula. The first four times the sides played, starting with 2010 when the game was called the Camellia Bowl, Japan would trot out whole high school teams, each with some good players and a slew of not-so-good ones, to play one quarter each against best-of-the-best collections of American high schoolers culled from DODEA schools in Japan, Okinawa and Korea and the American School In Japan. Team Rising Sun changed the formula last winter, gathering 175 college freshmen and sophomores for a tryout, keeping 55 of them and holding six practices before the fourth Tomodachi Bowl. The speed difference between Japanese collegiate sophomores and American high school upperclassmen was “noticeable,” Pujol and other coaches on each side said. The formula this season involves the same type of tryout for the Japanese, only this time, with high school seniors and college freshmen. Pujol said both sides were hoping that would be the key to making for a tight contest. And Team USA, as usual, features many of the stars from the past fall football season: -- Division I and Pacific overall rushing leader Jason Bland of two-time D-I champion Kadena (1,759 yards, 20 touchdowns, 229 carries). -- Division I and Pacific overall total offense leader and quarterback Isaiah Johnson of Kubasaki (110-for-173, 1,737 yards, 18 touchdowns passing; 708 yards, 79 carries). -- Senior DeAndre Rosalie of three-time D-II champion Daegu (1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns). -- Division II total offense leader Marcus Henagan of D-II runner-up Yokota (1,210 yards, 18 touchdowns during the regular season). All told, 32 American players, culled from Zama,Yokota, Kinnick, Perry and American School In Japan; Kubasaki and Kadena of Okinawa; and Seoul American, Daegu and Humphreys of Korea tee it up at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Amino Vital. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and rather chilly temperatures.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now