The V.I. Raiders proved they’re B.C.’s best junior football team.
But the thing about playoff time is that now they’ve got to keep proving it every game.
“We have to feel good,” said Jordan Botel, Raiders tailback. “It’s playoffs, a whole new game, but we’re bringing in everything we’ve done so far.”
What they’ve done so far this B.C. Football Conference season is finish a perfect 10-0, culminating in Sunday’s 35-3 blowout over the Okanagan Sun at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl stadium.
“We prepared like it was the biggest game of the year and it looks like only one team did,” said Tremaine Apperley, Raiders cornerback.
He mentioned his team’s swarming defence, the early turnover and the offence’s ability to march the football as reasons for the win. The Raiders questioned the Sun’s frame of mind, too, suggesting the home team might have been too focused on point differential.
“I think they were kind of in their own heads, so I think that played to our advantage…” said Apperley. “It’s definitely a good game to have going into playoffs. Confidence is going to be high.”
Not that confidence is ever really a problem for the Raiders.
“We know who we are,” said Andrew Smith, Raiders receiver. “We know what we’re capable of.”
Still, Sunday’s win was positive reinforcement. The Sun wanted to win badly; so did the Raiders. Yet the outcome wasn’t close.
“They were supposed to be the team to beat us,” said Mark Mueller, Raiders kicker. “And then to come out and beat them 35-3 in the final game of the season, it means a lot coming right into playoffs.”
It gives the team a sense of accomplishment, said Botel.
“With all the pressure on the game, to bring playoffs back home, to finish on such a positive note was a great feeling,” he said.
Raiders to face Victoria Rebels
The V.I. Raiders’ perfect season has led to the perfect playoff matchup.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team (10-0) plays the Westshore Rebels (5-5) on Saturday (Oct. 15) at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park.
For a preview of the game, please visit www.nanaimobulletin.com on Friday (Oct. 14).
Another Raiders record falls
The Bulletin noted that the Raiders established a new Canadian Junior Football League record for points in a single season, with 551, but overlooked a record on the other side of the football.
As one defensive player pointed out, the Raiders also set a new franchise record for fewest points allowed in a season with 83. The team’s previous best was 100, set in 2009.
Tailback rushes into last few games
Jordan Botel, former fullback, joked this week that blocking for Andrew Harris is his “claim to fame”. It’s not his only claim to fame. Botel clinched his second straight BCFC rushing title on the weekend after his 123-yard game against the Okanagan Sun bolstered his season total to 1,225 yards.
Botel credited teammates for his accomplishment.
“It’s a tribute to our O-line and all the work they put in. They do a lot of the hard chugging and hard work to open up the holes and a lot of times I just have to run through them,” he said. “I thank those guys a lot and tip my hat to them.”
The tailback is playing well at the right time of year, as the final-year Raider goes into his last playoff run in Nanaimo.
“I want to help out as much as I possibly can to do anything and everything to help win our playoff games, whether it be running, blocking or special teams,” Botel said.
Mueller making his mark
The B.C. Football Conference’s three highest scorers of all time are all V.I. Raiders. With Mark Mueller’s three field goals, three converts and a rouge in Sunday’s win over the Okanagan Sun, the kicker climbed to third place among the BCFC’s career scoring leaders.
His 345 points put him behind only Andrew Harris (506 points) and Scott Dixon (361) in the record books. Mueller is sixth all-time in CJFL scoring.
The veteran looks forward to the challenge of kicking at playoff time, when every field goal attempt is magnified.
“I’m always looking for that game-winning field goal,” Mueller said. “It doesn’t seem to come down to it so much this season, but I’m always looking forward to it.”