Saturday, May 11, 2002
If new Hawaiian Islanders head coach Chad Carlson yells out to one of his players, "Hey rookie!," there's a good chance the whole team will respond.
Inexperience, big plays
have doomed Islanders
By Nick Abramo
Take one look down the official roster and you can tell right away that these guys are newcomers when it comes to arena football.
All but two of the players have a big "R" for rookie listed under the experience column.
Only William Lackey has been around arenafootball2 for two years, while Miles Garner is a one-year veteran.
The Islanders (1-4) have taken their lumps during a four-game losing streak, but lumps, if used the right way, can quickly turn into wisdom and arena savvy.
They'll need some of that if they want to stay in the af2 National Conference West Division race. The San Diego Riptide (2-3), division rivals, are in town to play the Islanders tonight at 7 at the Blaisdell Arena.
Jesus Salud, the former world champion boxer and the team's director of community relations, believes experience, or lack thereof, is ultra important.
"We can stay with teams like Tulsa (whom the Islanders lost to 70-42 last week)," Salud said. "We showed it for two quarters (the Talons led 37-27 at halftime), but what some of these other teams have is experience, and that's something we don't have yet. But, if you consider our lack of experience, we're playing pretty good."
Carlson has a good feeling about Hawaii's practices this week.
Who: The arenafootball2 Hawaiian Islanders (1-4) take on the San Diego Riptide (2-3)
Islanders vs. Riptide
When: Tonight at 7
Where: Blaisdell Arena
Tickets: $10 for individual end-zone seats; $20 for a family of four. Fans who bring a canned good or non-perishable food item will get $2 off admission.
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
"The players have gone the extra mile," Carlson said. "We've lost some heartbreakers, like against Wichita (a 31-27 road loss two weeks ago), and in the other losses, we've been outplayed in the third and fourth quarters. They've got to come out and prove they can play all four quarters."
The Islanders have been practicing at the Blaisdell all week long, a luxury that's not available every week, and Carlson has seen the players "running sharper routes and making sharper catches and throwing sharp, crisp passes."
Despite the recently revealed smaller dimensions of the field, where teams need to gain just 8 real yards for a first down, Carlson doesn't think a shift to the running game is a good idea.
"The 5-yard hitch is the run in this game," he said. "Opponents will have five guys in the box against our four, and it just doesn't work. Sometimes, we can catch 'em off guard, but you don't want to lead the league in rushing. Teams that do that usually end up in last place."
Josh White, a bruising fullback who starred at Farrington High School and California, is one of those who can catch other teams off-guard.
He blazed around end for a 12-yard score against Tulsa.
"Good blocking," he said.
White is happy to be playing with a few guys he faced in high school -- Chris Paogofie and Taulia Lave of Waianae and Stevie Laulu of Kahuku.
"We have to stop hurting ourselves," said White, when asked what it's going to take to beat San Diego. "Stop giving up the big plays and take advantage of our opportunities instead of limiting ourselves."
Big plays have been lethal to the Islanders. Tulsa's Mitch Allner scored five touchdowns against them last week, including two length-of-the-field kickoff returns.
Darrell Jones, one of Hawaii's big-play weapons, thinks it's a lot of the little things that have added up to unravel the team in crucial situations.
"Once we get a team down, we've got to keep 'em down, not just play a half," Jones said.
"This is a conference game, and we've got to win every last one of 'em."
Jones, who ranks third in the league in all-purpose yardage with 919, is hoping for more chances at kick returns this week. Tulsa kicker Tony Dodson limited Jones' return capabilities by pounding the ball over the net and into the stands numerous times.
"I hope I never see a kicker like that again," Jones said. "But I just know any kicker we see isn't going to be as good as him."
Jones isn't completely out of the woods in that area because the Islanders visit Tulsa next Saturday.
Coach Carlson isn't worried about quarterback Darnell Arceneaux, who has struggled at times.
"Darnell has the most potential out of anybody out here," Carlson said. "He's a great athlete and a leader, and if he can find the key to controlling a game, all aspects of his game and the team's (offensive) game, he won't be here any more. He'll be playing the next level up and he'll come back and visit and tell us the way it's done."
Marty Graham is one of San Diego's players to watch. The offensive specialist is only 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, but he's tied for sixth in the league in scoring with 10 touchdowns for 60 points.
"He has no glaring weakness as a player," Riptide coach Cree Morris said in an article on the team's Web site. "He gets everything out of his body and ability. He's a complete professional."
Notes: The Islanders have begun a marketing program that will benefit high school athletes and the Hawaii Food Bank. Players on Oahu high school athletic teams can attend games for free if they wear their school's T-shirt and donate a can of food. The athletes will also be selling tickets to prospective fans for $15 each, and for each ticket sold, the Islanders will donate $3 to the school. ... Bakersfield (4-1) leads the af2 National Conference West Division, and their only loss is to Tulsa.
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