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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 21, 2002

Islanders rally, then hold off Steamwheelers, 56-55

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

The expansion Hawaiian Islanders handed the two-time defending arenafootball2 champions Quad City Steamwheelers the ultimate embarrassment last night.

Hawaiian Islander Mike Tillis (11) gave chase to Quad City's Ira Gooch during last night's contest.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Quad City, Iowa, jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and led by 17 points in the fourth, but the Islanders rallied and pulled out an improbable 56-55 victory at the Blaisdell Arena.

The Islanders scored the winning points on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Darnell Arceneaux to Nian Taylor with six seconds remaining and a two-point conversion from Arceneaux to tight end Taulia Lave.

"It was a set play, we scored on it earlier," Arceneaux said of the go-ahead conversion. "I bought time and gave Taulia a chance to catch the ball."

The Steamwheelers had a chance to win, but Brian Hegnauer missed a 50-yard field goal wide right with 2.7 seconds remaining, and Taylor caught the ball off the net and ran out the clock.

"We just came out here, put it together, stayed together and won the game," Taylor said.

The Islanders appeared out of it when Quad City went up 48-31 on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mike Cawley to Chris Anthony on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Then the Islanders' defense and special teams stepped up.

Their rally started when Cawley was pressured and called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety, which cut the deficit to 48-33 with 8:29 remaining.

On the ensuing kickoff, Taylor scored on a 54-yard return to make the score 48-40.

"I told myself I had to step it up," Taylor said. "And I stepped it up and returned it. After that it was over from there. Everybody started picking it up. We got the momentum going and got the win."

On the Steamwheelers' next possession, Niko Vitale intercepted a pass that deflected off Ira Gooch and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Arceneaux's run on the conversion tied the game at 48 with 6:21 remaining.

Quad City retook the lead, 55-48, after a 39-yard pass from Cawley to Gooch with 55 seconds remaining.

That led to the Islanders' final drive which lasted six plays and covered 32 yards.

The first quarter was a disaster for the Islanders.

Quad City scored three touchdowns on four possessions, while the Islanders (4-11) failed to score on their three possessions.

It was the second time the Islanders have been shut out in a quarter this season. The last time it happened was against the Wichita Stealth in the fourth game of the season.

The Steamwheelers (9-6) went up 21-0 on an 8-yard pass from Cawley to Hiawatha Phifer early in the second quarter.

"I thought we were in control of the game," Phifer said. "The only one who can stop us is us. We didn't make plays and they gained confidence."

Said Islanders coach Chad Carlson: "We weren't very focused when we came out. We looked around at halftime and said we could play with these guys."

Arceneaux dedicated the win to John Siofele, a St. Louis School graduate who was killed in a car accident earlier this week.

"Our motivation was for the Siofele family," said Arceneaux, also a St. Louis graduate. "Our heart and everything went out to them. They need all the support. I knew he was out there looking over us."

The Islanders will conclude their season with a road game against the Frenso Frenzy next week.

The Steamwheelers are banned from the playoffs because the team violated the league's player compensation rules in their first two seasons.