This year’s Kocher Classic will be played Friday-night-lights style.
The AA varsity football teams from Nanaimo District and John Barsby secondary schools meet in league play Friday (Oct. 21).
“You put the Nanaimo District Islanders and John Barsby Bulldogs on the same field and a football game’s going to break out,” said Rob Stevenson, coach of the ’Dawgs. “I think both teams are going to be more than ready for one another.”
Both squads will be coming off a short practice week, with games postponed due to stormy seas on the weekend and played earlier this week instead. The Bulldogs lost 40-19 on the road Monday against the Seaquam Seahawks and the Islanders won 27-20 on the road Tuesday against the Frank Hurt Hornets.
Both Barsby and NDSS will be playing with desperation after both have started the regular season 1-2 in the Western Conference, considered B.C. AA varsity’s toughest division. Though the Bulldogs and Islanders are rivals, they’re friends, family and neighbours. The respective coaches, Rob and Nate Stevenson, are brothers who swap film and root for each other every game except the annual Kocher Classic.
“We’re pretty sure what we expect to see from them and I think they’re in a similar place,” Rob said. “It’s going to be exciting just to go out there and kick the ball off in front of our friends and teachers and colleagues and parents and alumni.”
The Bulldogs are coming off a game in which they rushed the ball 46 times on a sloppy, wet field in Delta.
“Against Nanaimo District, you want to play balanced football,” Rob said. “If we go out there and run the ball 46 times, it’s going to be pretty easy to gang up on us. So you’ve got to be able to air it up enough to keep a few bodies away from our obvious strength, which is running the football.”
Defensively, he said his team will need to get a lot of bodies around the Islanders’ ball carriers.
In Monday’s loss at Seaquam, Barsby was close much of the way, leading 13-12 during the second quarter and trailing by one score in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs gained 268 rush yards and Matt Cooley scored two touchdowns and Taylor Markley had the other. Defensively, cornerback Kyle Gach and linebacker Andrew Ranftal had strong games.
GAME ON … Friday’s kickoff is at 6 p.m. at Merle Logan Field. Admission is free.