Nanaimo District Islanders quarterback Maren Bradbrooke rushes for a first down during an exhibition game against the Earl Marriott Mariners on Friday at Merle Logan Field.

Nanaimo District Islanders quarterback Maren Bradbrooke rushes for a first down during an exhibition game against the Earl Marriott Mariners on Friday at Merle Logan Field.

Islanders expect to be competitive in tough conference

The NDSS Islanders expect to be competitive this season, and they’ll have to be, to keep afloat in AA varsity football’s hardest conference.

The NDSS Islanders expect to be competitive this season, and they’ll have to be, to keep afloat in AA varsity football’s hardest conference.

“Our conference is so, so tough…” said Nate Stevenson, Islanders coach. “We’ve got to tip over some of those big guys to get to the dance.”

The Isles are used to that kind of schedule. Stevenson recalled a couple of seasons ago, when NDSS beat a first-placed team from elsewhere in B.C., but finished fifth in its own conference.

“If we keep focusing and getting better each week and believing in ourselves and finish out the end of the fourth quarter, then we’ll see what the score is at the end,” the coach said.

The Isles have had several new players join the team this fall, “so we’ve got a crew of guys who understand what’s going on and a crew of guys that are trying to learn what’s going on,” he said.

“There’s a lot of raw talent on this team and if we can sharpen it up and point it in the right direction, things are looking good,” Stevenson said.

He said he thinks the Islanders will be capable of running or passing the ball this season effectively enough that opposing defences won’t be able to hunker down and shut down one facet. However, the coach said ND’s offence is still in its infancy with a limited number of plays.

“A week or two into the season we’ve got to start working off of those so we’re not so vanilla and we can be a bit more explosive,” he said.

Maren Bradbrooke is the team’s quarterback and a threat to run or pass. Nikolas Johnson at running back is one of the leaders on offence and the offensive line is anchored by centre Caleb Pounds.

The defence has a few big guys, but there are also guys who aren’t as physically imposing who are playmakers on D.

Some of the conference’s heavyweight teams “will start leaning on you, but I think that we’re going to be able to make some big plays and slow those cats down,” Stevenson said. “We’ll come from different angles at them.”

Reece Maddison, at linebacker, and defensive end Connor Reid are key players on D.

GAME ON … With so many challenging games ahead, it magnifies the importance of games like the season opener this Friday (Sept. 23) against the Hugh Boyd Trojans. The Isles and Trojans kick off at 4 p.m. at Merle Logan Field and admission is free.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com