Football season intensifies as Raiders, Sun get ready

Things go up a notch this week as the V.I. Raiders get ready to face the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Aug. 3) at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl stadium.

V.I. Raiders receiver Dustin Rodriguez

V.I. Raiders receiver Dustin Rodriguez

The first week of football season was a sort of dress rehearsal, and now it’s showtime.

Things go up a notch this week as the V.I. Raiders get ready to face the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Aug. 3) at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl stadium.

“You’ve definitely got to get more pumped than most games, because it’s obviously our rival and they always play us really tight,” said Dustin Rodriguez, Raiders receiver. “There’s just something about them.”

At practice this week, Raiders coach Matthew (Snoop) Blokker said he saw excitement amongst his guys, focus for the task at hand and a desire to get better.

The Raiders were able to win their first game of the season Saturday in Victoria despite taking too many penalties and failing to click with their passing.

Those things will need to improve, said Blokker, to earn a win in Kelowna.

“We have to execute on offence a lot better than what we did and we’ve got to finish and get points,” he said.

The Sun, like the Raiders, have a lot of newcomers this year. They have a young defence and a new defensive scheme, but they’re quick to the ball and adept at breaking up big plays.

“So it’s going to be lots of short, quick routes,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to have to be crisp on that.”

Offensively the Sun have good balance, with some veteran playmakers.

“They’re going to try and pass a lot so we’re looking for that,” said Ariel Fabbro, Raiders defensive back. “We had some holes in coverage last week so I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Blokker thinks the discipline will be better – it usually is against tough opponents, he said – but there’s bound to be intensity.

“It goes up a lot,” Fabbro said. “They’re going to be competitive this year, I think, so we’re excited to go up there and play them.”

A certain level of excitement is healthy, but Blokker will also remind his players that it’s only Week 2 of a long season, not a bowl game.

“I don’t want to … put that type of pressure on our team right now,” he said. “We’re just going to focus on executing, getting better, play better than we did last week and carry on.”

GAME ON … Saturday’s kickoff is at 7 p.m. There will be no Raiders TV webcast as Kelowna radio is broadcasting the game.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com