Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, August 2, 1999

I N D O O R _ P R O F E S S I O N A L
F O O T B A L L _L E A G U E

might possibly
skip playoffs

Though their win yesterday earned
them home field advantage, the team's
owners want them to go on the road

By Pat Bigold


Banged up, fatigued, stressed and underpaid, the Hawaii Hammerheads somehow have held together long enough to claw out the right to host the opener of the upcoming Indoor Professional Football League playoffs.

But a player revolt over ownership's desire to give up that home field advantage seems to be in the making.

The Hammerheads (10-5) clinched second place yesterday with an emotional 24-20 come-from-behind win at Blaisdell Arena against the Louisiana Bayou Beast before 2,742 fans (about 1,800 paid).

Under the IPFL rules, it means Hawaii should host the third-place Mississippi Firedogs (8-7) on Aug. 14 in the Blaisdell setting the players have dubbed their "Shark Tank."

The Hammerheads are the hottest team in the league, having won eight of their last 10 games. Six of their last eight games were on the road.

But, as arena security and city police tried to break up a postgame altercation in the stands between Bayou Beast players and Hawaii fans, Eddie Klaneski, the hero of the Hammerheads' most critical victory of the year, spoke soberly of even bigger trouble brewing.

Klaneski said that if the Hammerheads' ownership gets its wish to give away the home field to Mississippi for financial reasons, he and his teammates might refuse to leave the island.

"Honestly, if they're going to take that step, a lot of us are not going to want to go," said Klaneski, whose 49-yard kickoff return rallied Hawaii from a 14-9 halftime deficit. "That's something that's uncalled for. We earned this position, we played our hearts out. The owners don't play the games. We do!"

Klaneski is the Hammerheads' all-purpose yardage leader (second in the league) and has run back four returns for touchdowns this season.

George Hetherington, co-chairman of the 10-owner group that finances the deeply indebted Hammerheads, said that if the players refuse to travel, he will have to pull Hawaii out of the playoffs.

Bizarre but true.

The Hammerheads owners know their team would do better at the gate in casino-based Biloxi, Miss., than in the Blaisdell, where paid attendance has been above 800 only twice this season. The Firedogs drew 5,139 for Hawaii's visit to Biloxi last month.

But Hawaii Head Coach Guy Benjamin, who has complained openly about the travel conditions his players have endured this season, said he planned to have a talk with Hetherington last night.

"You play for home field advantage in the playoffs," said Benjamin. "It's a big home field advantage for us here in the Shark Tank. We started out the season making a pledge we were not going to let teams fly in here to our island and have a vacation. We were going to own this island and own this arena. We take that seriously. We want Mississippi to play here a second time."

Hawaii beat Mississippi, 27-24, in their IPFL season opener at Blaisdell on April 17, but lost to the Firedogs, 35-20, on July 17 in Biloxi.

If Hawaii was to travel to Mississippi and win, the Hammerheads would have very little turnaround time to prepare for the IPFL championship game in Austin, Texas against the regular-season champion Terminators (11-4).

Asked if he will be speaking with the players, Hetherington said, "I'm going to let the coach deal with the players' morale."

He said he will be available to answer the players' questions and detail the team's financial situation.

"We have basically three choices," said Hetherington.

"1) We can go to Mississippi, and they've made us an offer that is a fairly attractive offer. 2) We can force Mississippi to come here, and they'll be very unhappy about that because they know they're going to lose a lot of money because our gate won't support their travel costs. Or 3) we can not play the playoffs. So the players' decision is going to be key."

Hetherington said that from a financial standpoint, there's no question that giving up the home field is the best option

"I know the players are tired and beat up, and they've been on the road a lot," he said. "But we're doing the playoffs really for the players. It's really for them to have closure on the season. We don't make any money on it.

"If it was just for financial considerations, I would stop right now. We'd have our last game on Wednesday and that would be it."

Hawaii is scheduled to close the regular season with another home game Wednesday night against the Bayou Beast.

Niko Vitale, who scored a second-half touchdown for Hawaii yesterday, said, "I would be ticked off if we had to go to Mississippi."

Vitale said he has stayed out of work to play football for the Hammerheads, losing substantial money in the process. He said other players have lost work days to go on road trips and they are feeling too much of a pinch.

Defensive coordinator Doug Semones said he supports his players' feelings.

"It's not fair," said Semones. "They get grief at their jobs and at home. To be in a position where we won and earned home field, and then you take that away - hey that's worth 14 points."

Semones said he firmly believes that the Hammerheads could beat Mississippi at home n the playoffs and then beat Texas in Austin for the IPFL title.

"And that would be huge to the team's future," he said.

Indoor Professional Football League

			W	L	PF	PA
x-Texas Terminators	11	4	599	429
y-Hawaii Hammerheads	10	5	555	501
z-Mississippi Fire Dogs	8	7	543	477
Idaho Stallions		6	9	571	624
Louisiana Bayou Beast	5	10	454	561
Rocky Mountain Thunder	5	10	493	617
x-Clinches regular-season championship, first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage in final

y-Clinches home playoff berth against Mississippi

z-Clinches third and final playoff spot

Yesterday's result

Hawaii Hammerheads 24, Louisiana Bayou Beast 20

Hammerheads 24, Bayou Beast 20

Louisiana 	7 7  0 6--20
Hawaii 		9 0 13 2--24
First quarter
--Joe Valencia 18 pass from Doug Coleman (Mike Shafer kick); Lou 7, Haw 0 (12:00).
Haw--Darrel Jones 21 pass from Tim Carey (Tibor Juhasz kick); Lou 7, Haw 7 (8:34).
Haw--TM safety; Lou 7, Haw 9 (3:00).
Second quarter
--Anthony Skinner 1 run (Shafer kick); Lou 14, Haw 9 (1:18).
Third quarter
--Eddie Klaneski 49 kickoff return (Juhasz kick); Lou 14--Haw 16 (14:49).
Haw--Niko Vitale 2 run (Juhasz kick failed); Lou 14, Haw 22 (8:45).
Fourth quarter
--Juhasz 16 field goal; Lou 14, Haw 24 (6:55).
Lou--Michael Lewis 34 pass from Coleman (Shafer rush failed); Lou 20, Haw 24 (:46).
--Skinner 5-11; Byron Allen 2-1.
Haw--Brendyn Agbayani 7-49; Vitale 7-36; Mike Tillis 4-18; Carey 7-minus 5.
--Coleman 9-20-2-125.
Haw--Carey 7-18-2-60.
--Lewis 4-57; Skinner 3-40; Valencia 1-18; John Foreman 1-10.
Haw--Jones 3-30; Gary Ellison 2-10; Zach Odom 1-12; Tillis 1-8.
Attendance: 2,742.

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