‘Fire within’ heats up football game

NANAIMO – The V.I. Raiders host the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Aug. 18) at 5 p.m. at Caledonia Park.

V.I. Raiders receiver Whitman Tomusiak

V.I. Raiders receiver Whitman Tomusiak

The B.C. Football Conference’s powerhouse programs are stepping on the field to trade touchdowns and tackles.

The V.I. Raiders host the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Aug. 18) at Caledonia Park.

“It’s huge,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker,  Raiders coach. “It’s Okanagan Sun week and everyone marks it on the calendar as soon as the schedule comes out.”

The Raiders (1-0-1) are coming off a 31-31 tie with the Langley Rams and while the Sun (1-1) haven’t been invincible this season, either, Okie’s last game was a 35-7 thrashing of the Kamloops Broncos.

“They’re big, they’re physical and they’re fast and that’s the way the Sun have always been and it’s no different…” Blokker said. “We expect to have just as good, if not better of an opponent in this week as we did last week.”

Okanagan’s defence is anchored by defensive end Steven Doege, a B.C. Lions practice roster player. The Sun offence this season is keyed by Bobby Davis, a former quarterback who has moved to slotback.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re on everything, all aspects of the game, not just on run or pass,” said Jon Jones, Raiders linebacker. “We’ve got to be focused on what they’re trying to do and just ready for anything they’re going to throw at us.”

Aside from the X’s and O’s, the Sun are sure to throw all-out effort at the Raiders. The rivalry between the programs has built steadily since Nanaimo entered the league in 2005. Since then, the Sun have not been able to add to their total of 14 B.C. championships, whereas the Raiders are six-time defending champs.

“I’m sure they’re fired up to play us and fired up to try and beat us,” said Matt Sawyer, Raiders receiver.

Okie hasn’t won at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park since 2005.

“There is only one team that has upset Nanaimo at home in seven years so it’s going to be a difficult task,” said Gavin Lake, Sun coach. “I think our guys love a challenge and will respond well.”

Dylan Chapdelaine, Raiders linebacker, said the rivalry with the Sun gets his team “pumped up” and leads to intense, hard-hitting games.

“It’s a fire within, and we like to take it out on them and bring our best game…” he said. “It’s a battle every time we step up to the ball so we’re going to have some fun.”

The Raiders are also finding motivation by looking at Saturday’s game as a challenge.

“If we want to be champions, we’ve got to beat teams like Okanagan…” said Sawyer. “I guess we’ll see what we’re made of. Either we’re satisfied with a tie, or do we want to go win? We’ll see what our character is.”

GAME ON … The Raiders and Sun kick off Saturday (Aug. 18) at 5 p.m. at Caledonia Park. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. Children age five and under will be admitted free.

-with files from Warren Henderson

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