The V.I. Raiders got the right kind of start to the season.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team won its home opener Saturday, defeating the Kamloops Broncos 37-14 at Caledonia Park.
“We played well,” said Nate Berg, V.I. tailback. “You’ve got a new group of guys where you don’t really know what to expect, so it’s the first test to see how we’re going to hold up.”
The Raiders were effective in all three facets of the game against the Broncos. Nanaimo’s defence set the tone early, pitching a shutout for the first three quarters to allow the offence to build a lead.
“Defence is pretty much just energy,” said Nathan Warawa, V.I. defensive lineman. “We came out, we get two and outs, we get two and outs, we get a pick in one play and then we go and sit and then watch the offence and they feed off that too. So if we get the momentum going, if we start it on defence, then it carries over.”
Jerome Erdman, Raiders coach, called the win a good start and liked a lot of aspects of his team’s performance. He said the defence was awesome, which helped rookie quarterback Jake Laberge and the offence.
“There was no pressure on him right away because our defence was playing so well, so he could settle down and play his game,” Erdman said.
The Raiders had a lot of success with Berg and the run game behind strong run blocking from the offensive line.
“We’ll try and run the ball against everybody,” Erdman said. “If you’re able to run the ball effectively, that opens up the rest of your game and defences love it, you’re chewing up the clock.”
Berg scored V.I.’s first touchdown, a four-yard rush late in the first quarter.
Laberge threw two touchdowns, 15 yards to Dustin Rodriguez in the second quarter and 47 yards to Brycen Mayoh in the fourth quarter. He also threw one interception early in the game.
Josh Paisley scored an 85-yard punt-return TD at the end of the third quarter.
Laberge finished 12-of-24 passing for 264 yards. Berg rushed 19 times for 114 yards. Rodriguez made four catches for 111 yards and Mayoh had four catches for 99 yards.
James Parker was 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, missing from 37 yards and then hitting from 33 yards and 36 yards. Bryce Couture was 1-for-1 with a 31-yard FG.
Defensively, Warawa had a sack and a fumble recovery and Kaelan Botel and Tyler Hill also recovered fumbles. Alex Eberling had an interception and Cory Fletcher, Matt Hill and Doug Thornton each had sacks. Gevhahn McNally-Hardisty made eight tackles and had two knockdowns.
For the Broncos, Brett Ablitt had a 19-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Colby Henkel and Jordan Angove had a 101-yard kickoff return TD.
Henkel finished 16-of-22 passing for 119 yards. Broden Romanovitch had nine receptions for 93 yards and Brody Bernier added six catches for 92 yards.
Defensively for Kamloops, Angove had an interception and Cory Yeast and Oso Okojie had sacks and Jesse Zajaros recovered a fumble and had a team-high five solo tackles.
GAME ON … The Raiders visit the Westshore Rebels on Saturday (July 30) in Victoria in a 7 p.m. game.