V.I. Raiders tailback Rhett Williams is tackled by Westshore Rebels opponents during Saturday’s B.C. Football Conference matchup at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Raiders edged by Rebels in home opener

The Westshore Rebels beat the V.I. Raiders 27-25 in BCFC action on Saturday in Nanaimo

It was a back-and-forth football game, but the champs were able to come out on top.

The Westshore Rebels edged the V.I. Raiders 27-25 in B.C. Football Conference action on Saturday at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park.

The home team led 14-3 until just before halftime, when the visitors drove the field and made it 14-10 at the break. The score stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when the Rebels were able to go up by two scores and hold on.

“It’s a game of momentum,” said Doug Hocking, Raiders coach. “We held them on a goal-line stand and then we went for a third down and we didn’t get it and then they went down and scored, so that changed everything for us,” he said.

A turning point came with four and a half minutes left, when the Rebels blocked a Raiders punt and Chris Larsen returned it for a touchdown.

“It’s tough to win football games when you’re shooting yourself in the foot all the time,” Hocking said.

Offensively, the Raiders weren’t able to find balance because the run game couldn’t gain much ground against a fast Rebels defence.

“We’ve focused on being a team that would pound the ball in between the tackles and we didn’t do that,” said Hocking. “We were trying to work the outside edge and their speed from halfback to defensive end is extremely good.”

Raiders linebacker Matthew Cox said his team lost momentum.

“We’ve got to keep up when we have the pedal to the gas. We’ve got to put it all the way down and finish these guys,” he said.

Cox said part of it is capitalizing on opportunities, but also “it’s what we take out of every game – we’ve got to execute and we’ve got to finish plays.”

Raiders quarterback Jake Laberge was 21-for-36 passing for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with North Rainey on a 21-yard TD reception to start the game, then threw a 28-yard TD to Brycen Mayoh in the second quarter and a 24-yarder to Mayoh with no time left in the fourth quarter.

James Parker kicked a 27-yard field goal and Trevor Pelland caught a two-point conversion.

Mayoh finished with five catches for 114 yards and Jared Braun had four catches for 95 yards.

Defensively, Matt Hill had five solo tackles and Cox had a sack.

For the Rebels, Scott Borden threw a 28-yard touchdown to Nate Skeete, and Borden later scored a major on a one-yard keeper. Kyle Clarke kicked two field goals including one from 37 yards.

Borden was 16-for27 for 219 yards, one TD and no INTs. D’Saun Greenaway made six catches for 90 yards and Raishaun Provo gained 78 rush yards.

On defence, Larsen and Ronan MacPhail-Silver had fumble recoveries and Kent Hicks and Etinosa Osarenkhoe had sacks.

GAME ON … Next action for the Raiders is Saturday (Aug. 12) when they visit the Chilliwack Valley Huskers. The Rebels visit the Kamloops Broncos on Aug. 12.