[ AF2 ]

Islanders ousted

They blow a chance to host
the conference final in
a loss to the Talons

TULSA, Okla. >> For the second time in a little less than a month, the Hawaiian Islanders return from Tulsa today pondering what could have been.

Like their regular-season meeting with the Tulsa Talons, the Islanders held a lead in the fourth quarter of yesterday's arenafootball2 playoff game at the Tulsa Convention Center. But once again the Talons answered with a clutch score and pulled away late for a 58-38 victory, ending the Islanders' second season in af2.

"We had our chances and we came up short," said Islanders coach Cal Lee, who led the team to an 11-7 record in his first season. "We have to make plays and we have to execute and we didn't execute. We just didn't get the job done."

Tulsa (14-3) advances to the National Conference final and will host Arkansas (11-7), which pulled out a 63-61 upset of top-seeded Quad City yesterday. Had the Islanders won, they would have hosted Arkansas at Blaisdell Arena this week.

Tennessee Valley hosts Macon in the American Conference final on Thursday. The conference champions meet in the ArenaCup next week.

The Islanders fell behind 20-10 in the first half and chipped away in the second before eventually taking a 38-37 lead in the fourth quarter.

But Tulsa receiver Mitch Allner, who provided the winning score in the Talons' 48-47 win over the Islanders on July 12, caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Craig Strickland with 3:06 left in the game to give Tulsa the lead for good.

Strickland, the game's Most Valuable Player, threw for 196 yards and five touchdowns and ran for a score. Allner, the Ironman of the Game, caught three touchdown passes.

Islanders quarterback Darnell Arceneaux completed 16 of 35 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Darrick Branch caught five passes for 94 yards and two scores before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

Arceneaux left the game in the second quarter with a slight concussion, but returned in the second half.

The Islanders struck quickly, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Arceneaux to Branch less than three minutes into the game. But they were held to a field goal the rest of the half and trailed by 10 at halftime.

The Islanders scored on their first three possessions of the second half to stay within striking distance and trailed 37-31 after Tulsa's Tony Dodson made a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

The Talons then forced the Islanders to attempt a 43-yard field goal. Kimo Naehu's kick bounced off the screen, but Morrie Roe recovered the live ball and took it into the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game. Naehu's extra point gave the Islanders the lead at 38-37 with 6:34 left.

But Tulsa used some help from the Islanders to regain the lead. Strickland threw an incomplete pass on third-and-10, but the Islanders were flagged for a roughing the passer penalty that gave the Talons a first down at the Islanders' 10.

One play later, Allner hauled in his third touchdown reception of the game and Johnny Balous' 2-point conversion run gave Tulsa a 45-38 lead with 2:06 left in the game.

"I thought the momentum was coming back our way," Lee said. "We had a great bounce and great effort to the ball. But to Tulsa's credit, they came back and they made the big plays at the very end."

The Islanders couldn't respond, as Arceneaux threw three incomplete passes and was called for intentional grounding on fourth down.

The Talons added an insurance touchdown on a 4-yard run by Strickland and Ramon Richardson scored on a fumble return on the last play of the game.

"I'm awfully proud of all the players and coaching staff and the job they did," Lee said. "The players played awfully hard. They never gave up and were battling to the very end."

Arkansas 63, Quad City 61: Twisters kicker Mark Norris made an 18-yard field goal as time expired as Arkansas stunned the host Steamwheelers.

The loss was Quad City's first in seven af2 playoff games and snapped its 14-game winning streak.

Talons 58, Islanders 38

At Tulsa Convention Center
Hawaiian Islanders (11-7) 7 3 14 14 -- 38
Tulsa Talons (14-3) 6 14 14 24 -- 58

HI--Darrick Branch 19 pass from Darnell Arceneaux (Kimo Naehu kick).
TT--Tacoma Fontaine 3 run (kick failed).

TT--Mitch Allner 8 pass from Craig Strickland (Tony Dodson kick).
HI--FG Naehu 34.
TT--Allner 6 pass from Strickland (Dodson kick).

HI--D. Arceneaux 4 run (Naehu kick).
TT--Aleric Clark 42 pass from Strickland (Dodson kick).
HI--Branch 42 pass from D. Arceneaux (Naehu kick).
TT--Shon King 15 pass from Strickland (Dodson kick).

HI--Josh White 1 run (Naehu kick).
TT--FG Dodson 42.
HI--Morrie Roe 0 net recovery of missed FG (Naehu kick).
TT--Allner 10 pass from Strickland (Johnny Balous run).
TT--Strickland 4 run (Dodson kick).
TT--Ramon Richardson 30 fumble return.

RUSHING--Islanders: J. White 5-19, D. Arceneaux 4-14, Anthony Arceneaux 1-(-6). Talons: Strickland 1-4, Fontaine 1-3, Richardson 0-30.
PASSING--Islanders: D. Arceneaux 16-35-1-211, Mike Tillis 1-7-0-13, Team 0-0-0-(-17). Talons: Strickland 17-33-0-196.
RECEIVING--Islanders: Branch 5-94, Darrell Jones 4-48, Desmond Maul 2-27, Nian Taylor 2-21, Isaac White 1-20, A. Arceneaux 2-15, Taulia Lave 1-(-1). Talons: Fontaine 6-72, Allner 4-29, Clark 3-55, King 4-40.
Att: 3,113.


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