[ AF2 ]

Darnell Arceneaux leads the Hawaiian Islanders against the Tulsa Talons today. The winner plays for the conference title.

Islanders’ quest
for title continues

The team travels to Tulsa for
a loser-out af2 semifinal today

The Hawaiian Islanders have seen up close how quickly things can change in an arena football game.

arenafootball2 playoffs

Who: Hawaiian Islanders at Tulsa Talons

When: Today, 2:30 p.m. (HST)

Where: Tulsa Convention Center

TV: None

Radio: KUMU2 1500 AM

At Stake: Winner advances to the National Conference final.

The last time the Islanders traveled to Oklahoma to face the Tulsa Talons, they held a 12-point lead with less than four minutes left in the game only to see the Talons strike for two quick scores to erase the Islanders' lead and claim a 48-47 victory.

When the teams meet again today in an arenafootball2 playoff game, both teams know the stakes will be higher and the margin of error smaller.

"We wanted to play them again after the way we lost that game," Islanders fullback/ linebacker Josh "Zeus" White said. "We put ourselves in a situation to get the win on the road, but at the end of the game we didn't make the plays we needed to. It's a great opportunity to go back there and avenge the loss."

Kickoff for today's af2 National Conference semifinal game at the Tulsa Convention Center in Tulsa, Okla., is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

The winner advances to the conference final against the winner of today's game between Quad City and Arkansas. The loser's season is over.

A year ago at this time, the Islanders had long since packed up their gear following a 5-11 inaugural campaign. But after claiming the West Division title and scoring a 57-30 victory over Wichita in a first-round game last week, they find themselves making their second trek to Tulsa in less than a month.

The Islanders will face a Tulsa team that went 13-3 in the regular season to win the Central Division and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Today's game will be the Talons' first home game since their victory over the Islanders on July 12. Tulsa owns a 29-6 all-time record at home and is 3-0 against the Islanders.

"You have to realize they'll be at home and they'll be fired up," Islanders coach Cal Lee said. "The only way to control the fans and everything is you have to make some plays to keep the crowd out of it. Once the crowd gets into it, it's a lot of motivation."

Tulsa has kept things interesting for coach Skip Foster, who has watched his team pull out six wins by six points or less. Their closest call was their comeback against the Islanders.

"We were very fortunate and lucky to win that game," Foster said. "We have to do a better job playing the full game or you're going to come out of a game like that with a loss. If we don't play better than we did last time, we'll get beat this time."

Although the bye last week gave the Talons a chance to rest weary muscles, Foster said the team also spent the down time trying to stay sharp.

"Being in the playoffs you try to stay in the groove and keep your rhythm down and your timing down," Foster said. "That's a concern you have any time you don't play. ... But we have a good bunch of guys that have played together for a couple years and hopefully we'll be OK."

Tulsa quarterback Craig Strickland completed 57 percent of his passes for 3,717 yards and 83 touchdowns and finished the regular season fourth in af2 in total offense. His favorite targets are Tacoma Fontaine (93 catches, 1,229 yards and 30 touchdowns) and Mitch Allner (67 catches, 941 yards, 24 TDs).

Allner's two touchdown catches late in the game were the difference in the Talons' win over the Islanders, with the winning score coming on a 35-yard connection with 36 seconds left.

The Islanders put together their most complete performance of the season in last week's win over Wichita. Aside from two fumbles to open the second half that allowed Wichita to creep back into the game, the Islanders dominated the contest.

Islanders quarterback Darnell Arceneaux had a hand in all eight of the team's touchdowns, passing for six and running for two, and was named the af2 national offensive player of the week.

"I don't think about the last game. It's a new week. You just try to get better each week," Arceneaux said. "It's our championship game, that's how we've approached this whole season. When you understand that and you leave everything on the field, you play better. Guys understand what's at stake. Coach Lee doesn't have to motivate anybody."

With little time to plan the trip, the Islanders initially were to divide into three groups to get to Tulsa. The 31-member traveling party ended up taking eight different routes before reuniting in Oklahoma yesterday afternoon.

af2 playoff schedule

All times HST
National Conference
Aug. 1
Hawaii 57, Wichita 30
Aug. 2
Arkansas 36, Bakersfield 28
American Conference
Aug. 2
Mohegan 50, Cape Fear 47
Macon 42, Florida 35

National Conference
Arkansas (10-7) at Quad City (14-2), 2:30 p.m.
Hawaii (11-6) at Tulsa (13-3), 2:30 p.m.
American Conference
Tennessee Valley 47, Mohegan 30
Macon (11-6) at Albany (13-3), 1:30 p.m.

National Conference
Aug. 16-17
Conference final, at higher remaining seed
American Conference
Aug. 16-17
Conference final, at higher remaining seed

Aug. 22-23
At higher seeded team


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