The good, old-fashioned Raiders-Rebels rivalry makes its return at last to Caledonia Park.
The V.I. Raiders and the Westshore Rebels play this Saturday (Oct. 5) in Nanaimo in the last game of the B.C. Football Conference regular season.
At this point in the season, the implications in the standings are clear – if the Raiders win, they finish first; if the Rebels win, that team vaults from last place right into the playoffs.
Nanaimo celebrated its win last weekend over the Langley Rams as if it was a first-place clinching victory, but the Rebels do pose one final obstacle.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of winning a huge game and losing your focus but I think that’s the job of the coaching staff, to get ready,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “At the end of the day this game is no different than last week. We win, we get first, we lose, we get third [place].”
Jaeden Marwick, Raiders quarterback, expects his team to be focused – it’s had to maintain focus, after all, for weeks now.
“It’s been a win-or-die situation for the last seven weeks now, since two losses,” he said. “We’ve had to win every single game and this weekend’s no different than the last.”
There are a few other storylines besides the standings. It’s the last chance to get the passing game prepped for playoffs with Marwick and Jahmari Bennett under centre. It’s the last game before the coaching staff has to decide on its 40-man playoff roster. It’s an opportunity to get some of those playoff starters reps on special teams. It’s their last-ever regular-season game of junior football for the graduating 22-year-olds.
And it’s a chance for the Raiders to play spoiler and eliminate their Island rivals from post-season contention.
“They’re going to throw everything but the kitchen sink,” said Blokker. “They’ve got to win this game to get in the playoffs so they’re not just going to fold their tents … They’re do or die, so we expect to see the most desperate team we’ve played against all year … This is exciting football.”
GAME ON … The Raiders and the Rebels kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park. Tickets, $12 or $10 for seniors and students, will be available at the gate … Raiders alumnus Andrew Harris, now of the CFL’s B.C. Lions, will be on hand for the ceremonial kickoff.