This showdown has been shaping up all season long, really.
The V.I. Raiders and Langley Rams have long guessed that they were going to meet in the B.C. Football Conference championship game, and now it’s right in front of them.
The Raiders and Rams play for the Cullen Cup this Saturday (Oct. 25) at 1 p.m. at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park.
V.I. (10-0-1) beat Langley (8-2-1) twice during the regular season, but they know the Rams are dangerous, with a league-best 11 all-stars, compared to seven on the Raiders.
“They’re very talented everywhere and they’re fast and they’re also big and physical,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “We know they’re going to make plays. It’s the timing of the plays that’s important.”
Blokker said his defence will need to make Rams quarterback Greg Bowcott look off his first reads and throw to his second or third choices, instead of his first choices, Nick Downey and Malcolm Williams.
“We’ve got to make that team earn everything they get and not just cheap freebies,” Blokker said. “We’ve got to make them work the whole length of the field and we’ve got to play field position.”
On the other side of the ball, the Rams are led by the BCFC’s Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Adam Konar and company, who will be tasked with trying to stop Raiders QB Jordan Yantz, BCFC Offensive Player of the Year, and his veteran receiving corps.
Blokker said the Raiders’ game plan on offence centres around giving Yantz time to throw the football.
“We have to change up some protection things to be a little more successful at that and be more motivated,” said the coach. “They’re a very physical team up front and we’ve got to compete against that.”
Yantz said he’s expecting to be pressured and will be prepared for it. He envisions his team getting off to a faster start this week when it comes to getting into the endzone.
“All it takes for us is getting in there once and we get excited about it and then we just keep on getting in there somehow,” he said.
The Raiders scored 31 points, 41 points, then 34 points against the Rams and the QB thinks his team will be able to win even if it scores fewer points than that this Saturday.
“If our defence goes and plays the game that they did [in the semis], I have faith in our offence to put up more than enough points to win,” Yantz said. “Even if it’s one point I think we have a good chance of winning.”
As far as intangibles go, well, motivation shouldn’t be a problem for either team. The Lorne Cullen Cup will be there on the sidelines, a trophy that the Raiders have lifted six straight years.
An even greater prize is the knowledge that B.C.’s champion gets to host the Canadian Bowl national championship game two weeks later.
So there are great spoils to the victor. And the alternative is almost unthinkable for graduating players like Yantz.
“It’s a little bit more hunger, and that much more will to win when you know that you’re down to your bitter end,” he said. “You know that it’s do or die.”
GAME ON … The V.I. Raiders play the Langley Rams this Saturday (Oct. 27) in the B.C. Football Conference final at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park … Tickets will be available at the gate at a cost of $15 for adults or $12 for seniors and students. Children aged five and under get in free … To read yesterday’s V.I. Raiders notes, please click here.