B.C.’s best plays Prairies’ best

It’s the beasts of B.C. against the powerhouse of the Prairies. The Vancouver Island Raiders and the Saskatoon Hilltops, the dominant forces in their respective conferences in the Canadian Junior Football League, meet Saturday (Oct. 29) at Nanaimo's Caledonia Park.

V.I. Raiders quarterback Jordan Yantz

V.I. Raiders quarterback Jordan Yantz

It’s the beasts of B.C. against the powerhouse of the Prairies.

The Vancouver Island Raiders and the Saskatoon Hilltops, the dominant forces in their respective conferences in the Canadian Junior Football League, meet Saturday (Oct. 29) at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park.

Both teams are used to being ahead in football games and winning – so there’s a good chance one team is going to be out of its comfort zone on Saturday.

“This is going to be a game that’s going to be four quarters of football,” said Matthew “Snoop” Blokker, Raiders coach. “Don’t leave your seat for anything. I think this game is maybe going to won in the last 10 seconds of it, who knows?”

Every single down will feature some of the best offensive playmakers in the country, but also the top tacklers, so every yard will be contested.

Blokker scouted the Prairie Football Conference final and reports that the Toppers are a patient team on offence.

“They punish you when you make mistakes,” he said.

Saskatoon’s offence is led, as it was in last year’s Canadian Bowl, by tailback Regan Schuler, who benefits from great blocking, and veteran quarterback Chase Bradshaw.

“They definitely have a big O line and they do everything really well,” said Ranji Atwall, Raiders linebacker. “We’ve just got to come in and smack them in the mouth and play physical and play our aggressive style.”

The Hilltops’ defence is also dangerous. Saskatoon racked up four interceptions in the PFC final led by linebacker Ben Cressman who made three picks.

“Nothing they did there was fancy or confusing,” Blokker said. “They just do the same thing very well and if you try to take too big of bites, that’s how they kill you.”

The pass-happy Raiders, led by quarterback Jordan Yantz, like taking big bites of the football field, so they’ll have to be precise to make it work.

“It’s who prepares more,” said Mike Schaper, Raiders receiver. “If they prepare more for us then maybe we won’t have the upper hand, but if we put our work in and we prepare more for them and we bring our athletic talent, who knows?”

And that’s what makes this game unique. There is rarely a “who knows?” factor at Raiders games. On Saturday, fans will really have to wait and see for themselves.

“It’ll be a fun game for us, for the Hilltops, probably, for the fans,” said Schaper. “It’s going to be something that I think Nanaimo hasn’t seen before out of football.”

GAME ON … The V.I. Raiders play the Saskatoon Hilltops on Saturday (Oct. 29) at 1 p.m. in the Jostens Cup national semifinal.  The winner goes to the Canadian Bowl in Ontario Nov. 12. Tickets for Saturday’s game cost  $15 and will be available at the gate. Fans are asked to wear black for the game … This is Part 2 of the News Bulletin’s Jostens Cup preview. For Part 1, please click here.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com