San Diego Riptide coach Cree Morris warned other arenafootball2 teams a few weeks ago: Beware of the Hawaiian Islanders the second half of the season.
Islanders hope to get
out of rut vs. Riptide
By Nick Abramo
That was moments after the Riptide wriggled past the Islanders 52-50 with a field goal as time ran out.
With eight games done and eight to go, it's an opportune time for the Islanders (1-7) to shift their fortunes.
Interestingly, they open the second half of the season today against Morris' Riptide squad (3-5) in San Diego at 4 p.m. Hawaii time. Both teams are coming off losses and are hungry for a victory.
"I respect Cree and what he's done with the San Diego team," said Islanders coach Chad Carlson. "So for him to say that, it must mean something. If we flip it around in the second half, we'll go 7-1. And in the first (eight games), most every time it was close.
"But he's exactly right. Our guys are enthusiastic, they want a win ... it's on the tips of their tongues and it's going to be (today)."
In a tough 55-48 loss at Fresno last week, the Islanders fumbled twice at the goal line, ruining their chances of taking a decisive lead going into the fourth quarter.
To backup quarterback Erik Wilhelm, a nine-year NFL veteran, it's all a matter of finishing.
"That's our new battle cry, to finish," said Wilhelm, who is also in the role of de facto assistant coach to Carlson, his good friend. "Hang on to the ball until the whistle blows. Play between your ears, play smart."
Wilhelm, whom the Islanders signed last week, is impressed with the team's upbeat attitude.
"They're looking for answers," he said. "Those answers aren't simple, and I know this sounds like a cliche, but they're a little too close to the fire to see the flames."
The Islanders' defensive backfield once again took its licks last week as the Frenzy's Ricky Ray threw seven touchdown passes. Ray has since left the team to join the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp in the Canadian Football League.
That may help the Islanders in the long run. Ray has thrown 32 touchdowns with just six interceptions and has led the Frenzy to three straight wins.
The Islanders trail Fresno and San Diego by two games in the chase for the American Conference West Division's second playoff spot. Bakersfield (5-2) has a two-game cushion in the hunt for the division title.
This week, the Islanders must work on stopping Riptide quarterback Kane Claunch and his crew of receivers, who combined for four TDs in the last meeting between the two teams.
The Islanders' gutsy play in the face of many defeats can be evidenced through the efforts of linebacker/wide receiver Chris Paogofie. One of the Islanders' hardest hitters and versatile two-way players, Paogofie suffered broken ribs early against Fresno and played the whole game. He won't miss today's game, either.
"It hurts when I get out of bed or when I bend over, but other than that, it's OK, no problems breathing," Paogofie said. "I'm sure I'll feel it if I get hit there.
"Our confidence is really high. We just have to execute on every play. We can't drop balls. We can't make turnovers. It's all about perfection."
Notes: Today's game can be heard on tape delay at 6 p.m. on KCCN 1420-AM. ... Lineman Morrie Roe injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and may be out for the season. ... The Islanders signed Junior Tagoai, a 6-foot, 300-pound lineman who played for the University of Hawaii in the early 1990s. ... Wichita's 57-38 upset of Quad City last week illustrates the topsy-turvy world of af2. In road games, the Islanders lost by 30 points to Quad City (5-2) and by four to Wichita (2-6). ... Quarterback Darnell Arceneaux is banged up with knee and shoulder troubles, but he's expected to start. ... Today is the Islanders' third straight road game. The Peoria Pirates (6-2), who passed Quad City for the National Conference Midwest Division lead last week, visit Blaisdell Arena for a June 8 game. The Pirates represent the fifth division leader on the Islanders' schedule.
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