Darrell Jones of the Hawaiian Islanders hauled in a touchdown pass in front of Peoria's Chazz Moore last night. Nian Taylor looked on. The Islanders came back from 22 points down to win.

Islanders come back

The Hawaiian Islanders rallied from a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull out an improbable 44-43 victory over the defending arenafootball2 champion Peoria Pirates last night at Blaisdell Arena.

The Islanders scored 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 43-21 deficit early in final period and improve to 8-3 and maintain their grip on first place in the National Conference's West Division.

"There's a lot of happy people in (the locker room) and they should be, because when you're down and you battle back the victory is so much sweeter," Islanders coach Cal Lee said.

"We never gave up, and even when things looked bad they kept battling."

Hawaii remained undefeated at home (6-0) this season and extended its winning streak at Blaisdell Arena to nine games dating back to last season.

Peoria, the last visiting team to win in Hawaii, fell to 3-7 in the National Midwest division. The Pirates' 64-50 win over the Islanders last summer remains the last time Hawaii lost at home.

The Islanders won despite committing a season-high six turnovers as quarterback Mike Tillis passed for 279 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score. Game MVP Nian Taylor scored four touchdowns, three on receptions and one on a fumble recovery.

The Islander defense spurred the rally with several key stops in the fourth quarter, highlighted by two interceptions by Anthony Arceneaux, who was named the defensive player of the game.

"It's just being in the right place at the right time, I got kind of lucky if you ask me," Arceneaux said. "That's what good coaching does; it prepares you to be lucky and get those great plays."

Peoria quarterback Charles Peterson completed 18 of 35 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Jack Walker, af2's leading scorer, accounted for 96 receiving yards and two scores.

Peoria coach Bruce Cowdrey declined comment after the game.

The Islanders struck first, capping their first possession with a 15-yard strike from Tillis to Taylor. But the Pirates responded with three unanswered scores to take a 22-7 lead.

The Islanders cut the deficit to 22-14 at halftime by turning an offensive miscue into an unusual touchdown in the final minute of the half.

Tillis' pass into the end zone was intercepted by David Knott. However, Knott dropped the ball as he looked for running room and Taylor recovered the fumble for an Islanders touchdown with 25 seconds left.

The Islanders crept closer early in the third quarter when Tillis found Darrell Jones for a 3-yard TD pass. Kimo Naehu's PAT brought Hawaii within a point at 22-21.

But the Islanders fumbled the ball away on their next three possessions and Peoria turned each into touchdowns to open up a commanding 43-21 lead with 12:19 left in the game.

"There was no panic," Tillis said. "We've been behind before so we just maintained our poise and just came out and played 60 minutes."

The Islanders began the comeback with a 1-yard TD run by Tillis and the defense stopped the Pirates on downs inside the Hawaii 5.

Tillis then hit Taylor for a 27-yard touchdown to cut the Islanders' deficit to 43-36 with less than four minutes left.

The Islanders' defense made it a five-point game when Taulia Lave sacked Peterson in the end zone for a safety.

Lave, an assistant coach at Kapolei High School last year, said the Hurricane football players seated behind the end zone provided motivation for the momentum-turning play.

"They were giving me energy, I was getting hyped up looking at them," Lave said. "I was just mad that play and I went all out and I got the quarterback."

The Islanders' roll stalled momentarily when Eddie Klaneski fumbled away the ensuing free kick, but Arceneaux intercepted a Peterson pass at the Hawaii 4 with 2:46 left.

A 35-yard catch and run by Darrick Branch put the ball at Peoria 11. Tillis then hit Taylor over the middle for the go-ahead TD.

The Pirates gave the ball back again as Peterson's pass to Walker was tipped away by Klaneski and intercepted by Arceneaux.

The Islanders then ran out the clock to seal the win.

"This is a win that's going to propel us into the latter part of the season so we can be ready for the playoffs," Tillis said.

At Blaisdell Arena
Peoria Pirates (3-7) 7 15 14 7 -- 43
Hawaiian Islanders (8-3) 7 7 7 23 -- 44

HI--Nian Taylor 15 pass from Mike Tillis (Kimo Naehu kick)
PP--Mike Cunningham 4 pass from Charles Peterson (Brett Majors kick)
PP--Jack Walker 19 pass from Peterson (Majors kick)
PP--William Bumphus 7 run (Troy Edwards run)
HI--Taylor fumble recovery in end zone (Naehu kick)
HI--Darrell Jones 3 pass from Tillis (Naehu kick)
PP--Peterson 1 run (Majors kick)
PP--Bumphus 1 run (Majors kick)
PP--Walker 7 pass from Peterson (Majors kick)
HI--Tillis 1 run (Anthony Arceneaux pass from Tillis)
HI--Taylor 27 pass from Tillis (Naehu kick)
HI--Safety, Peterson sacked in end zone
HI--Taylor 11 pass from Tillis (pass failed)

RUSHING -- Pirates: William Bumphus 2-8, Charles Peterson 3-3, Nick Cosentino 1-3; Bryan Eakin 2-1, Jurron Kelly 2-0 Bryan Archibald 1-0, Chazz Moore 1-(minus-3). Islanders: Josh White 9-25, Vai Notoa 1-2; Mike Tillis 3-(minus-2).
PASSING --Pirates: Peterson 18-35-3-239, Team 0-0-0-(minus-6). Islanders:Tillis 17-27-2-279, Team 0-0-0-(minus-14).
RECEIVING -- Pirates: Jack Walker 8-96, Moore 4-38, Bumphus 3-55, Anthony Griffin 2-46, Mike Cunningham 1-4. Islanders:Taylor 8-149, Darrick Branch 3-73, Anthony Arceneaux 3-38, Isaac White 2-16, Darrell Jones 1-3.

Hawaiian Islanders

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