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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 9, 2003

Japan player boosts Islanders' defense

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

Doug Semones, the Hawaiian Islanders defensive coordinator/special teams coach, knew since last season that Japan import Kohei Satomi was lightning in a bottle.

But until last week, Satomi was one of the best kept secrets in the 2003 arenafootball2 season because of problems obtaining a work visa.

He started at defensive specialist against the Wichita Stealth and led the team with five tackles.

"It's really exciting," said Satomi, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, according to the team's media guide. "Finally my visa problems were cleared and a lot of people helped me out and I really appreciate that."

Semones, one of two returning coaches from last season, first took notice of Satomi before the start of last season at the Pacific Rim Training Camp at Central O'ahu Regional Park.

"I knew he could play from last year," Semones said. "Just waiting for him to get his visa and once he got cleared I told him he was going to get his opportunity."

Satomi, 26, played as an amateur in Japan and played two years in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals.

"When he came to us last year you could tell he had played a little bit and knew what he was doing," Semones said.

Satomi also had work visa problems last season and only played in five of the final six games. He recorded eight tackles, one interception and six pass break-ups.

Earlier this year, he made the practice squad of the af1's Indiana Firebirds, but decided to rejoin the Islanders.

Satomi, who is 5 feet 10, 190 pounds, will start at defensive specialist tomorrow night when the Islanders (3-2) play the Bakersfield Blitz (1-4) in a National West Division game at the Blaisdell Arena.

"He's aggressive, he understands the game and he has really good feet," Semones said.

Satomi said he came to Hawai'i to play football because the sport isn't very popular in Japan.

"Japanese people don't care about football, everybody likes baseball and sumo wrestling," he said. "That's why I came to Hawai'i, to play in the arena league."

Satomi, who was allowed to practice while his visa problems were being worked on, has fit in well with his Islanders' teammates. He shares an apartment in Waikiki with quarterback Darnell Arceneaux and defensive specialist Eddie Klaneski.

"He's a character, he's a funny guy," Arceneaux said of Satomi. "He has adapted to all American customs and jokes. We treat him like a local boy. We joke about him, we tease him and he teases us right back. He's in our family right now."

Klaneski said there are no communication problems with Satomi on the field.

"He's a smart DB (defensive back)," Klaneski said. "He understands our calls and signals. I can communicate with him and he understands me well when I'm telling him what to do out there and sometimes he's telling us what to do."

Through all his work visa problems, Satomi hasn't gotten down, according to Arceneaux.

"He's gone through a lot of trials and tribulations with his visa," Arceneaux said. "To go up and down emotionally, not knowing if you can play or if you have to sit out the season ... he's done a tremendous job of keeping positive and not making himself a distraction on this team."

• On the run: The trend in arenafootball2 is to throw on virtually every down, but the Hawaiian Islanders haven't passed up the opportunity to fully utilize their running game.

The Islanders lead the 27-team af2 with 64 rushing attempts, 323 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per rush and 64.6 rushing yards per game.

Three of the team's fullbacks rank in the top nine in rushing yards. Chris Paogofie is third with 107 yards, Vai Notoa ranks seventh with 73 and Josh "Zeus" White is ninth with 62.

Sherard Poteete of Bossier City leads the league in rushing with 139 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games.

Hawaiian Islanders quarterback Darnell Arceneaux ranks sixth with 81 rushing yards.

"It's just another weapon in our arsenal," said Arceneaux, who set af2 records last season with 439 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. "We just take advantage of it. If we need it, we know we've got it."

The fullbacks aren't the only ones enjoying the Islanders' reliance on the run. Each time a running play is called, center Andy Ramos gets a certain rush.

"Run blocking is better because you get to bury the guy in front of you and you get to take all your aggression out," said Ramos, who is 6 feet 3, 330 pounds. "You can go all out on the guy, you can take him as far back as you like, you can throw him into the ground, do whatever you want."

Note: It's the second meeting this season between the Islanders and Bakersfield. The Blitz won in Bakersfield, 58-43, on April 19.