DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaiian Islander Josh White gained tough yards against Peoria's Frank West last night at the Blaisdell Arena.
True to their nature, the Hawaiian Islanders had the gumption to slug it out with a more experienced opponent. But eventually they succumbed to the Peoria Pirates 64-50 last night at the Blaisdell Arena.
Islanders come up short
again to fall to 1-9
By Nick Abramo
The smallest announced home crowd of the season -- 2,406 -- watched the Islanders (1-9) take second-quarter leads of 28-14 and 35-21. It all came undone in the second half, though, against one of the top teams in arenafootball2.
Peoria (8-2) scored the final nine points of the first half -- all within the last 14 seconds -- to trim Hawaii's lead to 35-30.
Lincoln Dupree, who earlier snagged his league-leading 10th interception, caught a 32-yard TD pass from Walter Church. The Pirates added a safety when Islanders quarterback Darnell Arceneaux, avoiding several defenders, was called for intentional grounding.
"In the first half, things just didn't go our way," Peoria coach Bruce Cowdrey said. "In the second half, we just weren't going to let all the extraneous stuff bother us. Just play our game. We wanted to get up by two touchdowns and then trade touchdowns with them. Like in tennis ... as long as you can hold serve, you win."
The National Conference West Division-leading Pirates struck first in the second half, as Jerome Hurd dove for a 4-yard touchdown, giving Peoria a 37-35 edge. But kicker Jake Huggins gave the Islanders a 38-37 lead midway through the third quarter by nailing a 36-yard field goal.
Church torched the Islanders secondary for four second-half touchdowns. He hit Hurd for a 24-yard TD before firing one to Cornell Craig, who made a 45-yard, over-the-shoulder grab for a 51-38 spread. Later, Church found 6-foot-5 Jermaine Sheffield on a fade pattern for a 6-yard score, making it 58-44. He also threw a 14-yarder to Craig for the final points of the night.
"We controlled the first half," Hawaii coach Chad Carlson said, "and then hit a roadblock in the second half, when they scored on all of their possessions and we didn't get one stop. We've got to shore it up and make those stops in the second half like we did in the first half."
Josh White was the first Hawaii player to find the end zone in the second half. He scored his second 1-yard rushing touchdown of the game, slicing the Peoria lead to 51-44 with 9:01 to go.
Niko Vitale finished off the Islanders' scoring with one minute left, snaring a 15-yard pass from backup quarterback Erik Wilhelm. Vitale was in uniform for the first time after signing with the Islanders two weeks ago.
In the second quarter, William Lackey started Hawaii's momentum swing with a fumble recovery and 22-yard return, setting up Arceneaux's 9-yard touchdown pass to Tiki Sagapolutele for a 21-14 lead.
After the teams swapped fumbles, Arceneaux scrambled, saw Vitale alone in the end zone and lofted a 31-yard pass to him for a 28-14 bulge.
Church connected with a jumping Sheffield for a 14-yard score to cut it to 28-21, but then Arceneaux put the Islanders back up by 14, rolling right and making a baseball toss to Phil Austin for a 1-yard TD.
"Their coach (Carlson) did a great job, especially with the injury bug," Cowdrey said. "Their kids played hard."
Three key starters were missing from Hawaii's lineup due to injury --offensive specialist Darrell Jones (ribs) and wide receiver/linebackers Isaac White (shoulder) and Chris Paogofie (ribs).
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