Star-Bulletin Sports


Hawaiian Islanders Darrell Jones scored on a 30-yard interception return in Saturday's upset of af2's defending champs.

Islanders show
signs of life

A come-from-behind upset
of the defending champs gives
them something to build on

By Nick Abramo

It's doubtful the Hawaiian Islanders could have come up with a better way to end their home season than last Saturday's 56-55 arenafootball2 upset of Quad City.

"They're the two-time what?" injured Islander Sae Paogofie yelled indignantly, referring to the two-time defending champion Steamwheelers. "Taulia! ... Taulia!" he shouted repeatedly as he exited the arena.

Paogofie was giving his due credit to tight end Taulia Lave, who caught Darnell Arceneaux's 2-point conversion pass with seven seconds left for the go-ahead points.

The fire the Islanders showed in the face of defeat may have won over the 5,185 fans in attendance as Hawaii's only pro sports franchise continues to build a fan base for the future.

The Islanders went on an all-out rampage over the last 8 1/2 minutes to overcome Quad City's seemingly insurmountable 48-31 lead.

"The tenacity of the Hawaiian team was the difference," said Jim Foster, the Steamwheelers' owner and the inventor of arena football. "We had our way with them in the first half, but we left our barn door open, as the saying goes, in the second half.

"That was classic arena football and a fun game to watch."

Foster, who also owns the Iowa Barnstormers of the parent Arena Football League, was impressed with the way the Islanders handled themselves on the final drive.

"They milked the clock as much as they could," Foster said. "(Quarterback Darnell) Arceneaux was casually walking to the line of scrimmage with 16 seconds left. That showed they had a great deal of confidence in their ability to score and leave us with not enough time to answer."

Arceneaux connected with Nian Taylor for a 9-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to one point, leading to Lave's heroics.

Islanders coach Chad Carlson wasn't about to settle for a tie.

"It was our place and our night," he said. "We had a (2-point) play set up, we had the guys to do it and the energy in the arena was right. I said, 'We got nothing to lose. This is our championship game. Let's do it.' "

It was Taylor's 54-yard kickoff return, trimming the Quad City lead to 48-40 with 6:21 left, that got the team's killer instinct pumping.

Then, Niko Vitale's 25-yard interception return for a TD allowed the Islanders to scratch out a 48-48 tie. Darrell Jones foreshadowed the fourth quarter's improbable events with a 30-yard interception return for a score in the third quarter.

The Islanders' vast improvement is obvious to Foster, because he remembers Quad City's 69-39 rout of the Islanders on April 20 in Moline, Ill.

"It was a mismatch, you could see it," he said. "That was because they had a bunch of new players who didn't know the (arena) game and it was their first road trip. They've made a tremendous improvement in personnel, and they've done some things coaching-wise that have made a difference."

Darrick Branch, who played for the University of Hawaii from 1989 to 1992, caught one pass for 23 yards in his first home game as an Islander.

"Talk about a team effort," Branch said. "It was a prime example of the way to just go out and get it done."

Branch said he couldn't refuse when his agent called and asked if he would be interested in playing in Hawaii again.

"I've never had a bad memory from Hawaii in my life," said Branch, who was recently cut by the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. "So I said, 'Sure, why not?' It was the least I could do."

For Carlson, the victory was just about sinking in yesterday.

"It's still kind of hitting me," Carlson said. "After the game, I was so wound up that I couldn't completely comprehend the whole idea of the victory. But I'll be watching the replay (on OC-16 last night) and that'll be my time to enjoy it."

The Islanders (4-11) have won three out of their last five games and they finished 4-4 at home. They'll close out the season Saturday in California against Fresno (4-11). The winner takes the consolation prize of third place in the National Conference West Division.

Hawaiian Islanders

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