Receiver Josh Tipton signs on with the Vancouver Island Raiders and is welcomed by coach Doug Hocking and teammates at the CJFL club’s signing day party Thursday at Steve Marshall Ford Lincoln. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Raiders reinforce roster on signing day

Thursday was junior football signing day and Nanaimo’s V.I. Raiders added a lot of high-level talent

The V.I. Raiders can start game-planning now that they know what players they’ve got on the roster.

Thursday was junior football signing day and the Raiders added a lot of high-level talent. The team had a signing party at Steve Marshall Ford Lincoln auto dealership, while other out-of-town players signed their papers in places across the country.

“Today’s an exciting day for everybody and an exciting day for everybody in the BCFC and the CJFL,” said Doug Hocking, Raiders coach.

He was asked whether the team needed to ‘win’ signing day, as other B.C. Football Conference rivals were also bolstering their rosters on Thursday.

“We focus on our plan and our program. We put a plan together in January of who we wanted to recruit and the type of players we wanted to recruit for this football team,” Hocking said. “So on a day like today, anything that goes on with another program … none of that concerns us until we have to play those teams.”

The Raiders, in any case, say they’ve signed all the guys they were hoping to get. Two of the team’s most high-profile additions are receiver Josh Tipton, a receiver from Victoria who had been playing CIS football, and Cody Upton, an offensive lineman who has won national championships with the Saskatoon Hilltops.

The Raiders are also high on Norbert Kipala, a linebacker from Toronto; Ethan Moran, a defensive back from Saskatoon; Dillan Neufeld, a defensive lineman from Neepawa, Man.; and Zander Bailey, a running back from Coquitlam.

Local Nanaimo additions include defensive back Shawn Arabsky and quarterback Cole McGarvey.

Returning to the team is Jamie Ybarra, a former Raiders starting quarterback who has since played junior college football in California and junior football in Winnipeg. He talked to Hocking in the off-season and there was agreement that Ybarra would be able to help out the team, both in a leadership capacity and also to complement and challenge starter Jake Laberge.

“I’m ready to compete every week and kind of push the other players around us to get better every day,” Ybarra said.

He thinks the Raiders have potential to win in 2017.

“I think it’s going to be a really good year, to tell you the truth, just [with] the kind of culture and the family aspect that they have going on right here,” Ybarra said. “And we definitely have the talent by far, too, to definitely be a national contender.”