Sunday, May 12, 2002
The Hawaiian Islanders went in for a battery recharging this week, and despite having new head coach Chad Carlson firmly clipped to the positive terminal, they weren't able to zap the San Diego Riptide to stop a long losing streak, falling 52-50.
Islanders a few volts short
By Nick Abramo
A frenetic comeback gave the Islanders a 50-49 lead with 7.3 seconds left, as quarterback Darnell Arceneaux lofted a 9-yard scoring pass to Robert Kemfort with a defender draped all over him against the boards in the right corner of the end zone.
But the Riptide had one more chance and kicker Ryan Geisler didn't flinch, sending a 40-yard field goal straight through the uprights to send the Islanders to a devastating fifth straight defeat, in front of an announced crowd of 4,298 at the Blaisdell Arena.
"I don't think we beat 'em, really," San Diego coach Cree Morris said. "We were lucky enough to get out of here with a win. I knew we were still in it (after Kemfort's TD), but my heart stopped for the last minute."
Geisler, who survived a kick-a-thon against other hopefuls in the San Diego area to make the Riptide squad prior to last week's game, his first in a San Diego uniform, was close to speechless after the winning kick.
"It was a amazing. I was in the zone and didn't hear a thing," he said, even though the Blaisdell was rocking. "I've never had a winning kick in my life and I can't explain the feeling."
Said quarterback Kane Claunch: "I told everyone to grab a hand and believe. I knew he was going to make it."
San Diego exploited a porous Hawaii secondary throughout most of the game, as Claunch threw four TD passes.
This time, the Islanders (1-5) didn't let their opponent off easy in the second half. They stayed with the Riptide (3-3) blow for blow, where they showed an invigorated fighting spirit that had been lacking in recent weeks. Andy Ramos was the poster boy for the new attitude and he had his demolition helmet strapped on firmly. Early in the game, the 6-foot-3, 330-pound lineman slammed San Diego kick returner Rico Curtis into, up and over the boards. Ramos also sacked Claunch to slow down a Riptide scoring drive.
"This was a hard one to take," Carlson said. "The guys were putting it all on the line. Everybody felt like we won it with seconds left, but that's arena ball for you. San Diego battled as hard as we did. What a great game to watch."
Ramos was enthusiastic -- and spent -- after the game, despite the loss.
"Everybody wanted to put it all together for a win," he said. "And we almost did it. We'll be on the road the next three weeks, and it looks like we're getting back on the right track. I'm tired. I have nothing left."
Hawaii's Chris Paogofie also provided an early defensive spark, recovering a San Diego fumble and galloping 20 yards for a touchdown.
But the Riptide stayed one step ahead for most of the second half. They led 43-37 at the end of three quarters as Altie Parker hauled in a 6-yard over-the-middle Claunch TD pass and Geisler nailed a 45-yard field goal.
Early in the fourth, a San Diego defensive stand delivered a major short circuit to the Islanders' chances. Hawaii drove all the way to the Riptide 4 for what could have been a go-ahead score, but a holding penalty led to a fake field goal try, and holder Jared Flint tried to throw a pass after scrambling past the line of scrimmage and San Diego took over on downs.
On the next play, Claunch floated a pass to a wide-open Mark Butler, who came back to the ball for a jumping catch, landing in the front right side of the end zone for a 38-yard score and a 12-point, 49-37 cushion with 10 minutes left.
Arceneaux made it 49-44 by rushing off right tackle untouched for an 11-yard score before his fan-pleasing go-ahead TD toss to Kemfort.
Hawaii had first-half leads of 13-6, 20-19 and 27-26, but an illegal defense penalty kept alive a San Diego drive, leading to Burk's burst around left end for a 33-27 Riptide edge.
Jake Huggins' 27-yard field goal kept the Islanders' halftime deficit to three points. Earlier, Darrell Jones scored on a 56-yard kickoff return. It was the 5-7, 165-pound escape artist's first return for points this year.
"Hawaii is about to turn the corner," San Diego's Morris said. "Watch out for them in the second half of the season."
Riptide 52, Islanders 50
San Diego 19 14 10 9 -- 52 Hawaii 13 17 7 13 -- 50
San Diego -- Melvin Blue 1 run (kick failed)
Hawaii -- Derek Zoller 4 run (Jake Huggins kick)
Hawaii -- Chris Paogofie 20 fumble recovery (kick failed)
San Diego -- Mark Butler 24 pass from Kane Claunch (Ryan Geisler kick)
San Diego -- Claunch 1 run (kick blocked)
Hawaii -- Darnell Arceneaux 1 run (Huggins kick)
San Diego -- Ryan Cuthbert 17 pass from Claunch (Geisler kick)
Hawaii -- Darrell Jones 56 kickoff return (Huggins kick)
San Diego -- Jason Burk 5 run (Geisler kick)
Hawaii -- Huggins FG 27
San Diego -- Altie Parker 6 pass from Claunch (Geisler kick)
Hawaii -- Arceneaux 10 run (Huggins kick)
San Diego -- Geisler FG 45
San Diego -- Butler 38 pass from Claunch (kick failed)
Hawaii -- Arceneaux 11 run (Huggins kick)
Hawaii -- Robert Kemfort 9 pass from Arceneaux (run failed)
San Diego -- Geisler FG 40
RUSHING -- San Diego: Claunch 5-16, Blue 2-5, Burk 3-5, Rico Curtis 1-(-3). Hawaii: Arceneaux 5-28, Zoller 3-8, Josh White 2-7, Jared Flint 1-2, Paogofie 3-(-2).
PASSING -- San Diego: Claunch 18-26-0-242, Wesley Phillips 1-1-0-3. Hawaii: Arceneaux 16-34-0-172.
RECEIVING -- San Diego: Butler 4-89, Ryan Smith 7-85, Parker 3-29, Cuthbert 1-17, Scott Nicholson 1-15, Curtis 1-9, Burk 1-3, Brad Greetis 1-(-2). Hawaii: Jones 9-81, Kemfort 5-73, Isaac White 1-13, Taulia Lave 1-5.
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