To see a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s game in Langley, please click here.
The playoffs will go through Caledonia Park.
The V.I. Raiders defeated the Langley Rams 22-12 on Saturday in the Fraser Valley to all but clinch first place in the B.C. Football Conference.
“We knew what was at stake,” said Ash Gayat, V.I. defensive end. “Coming out from the first whistle we knew they were going to give us their all and we knew we had to play better.”
A downpour right before kickoff set the scene for a soggy game, and more adversity came right away as starting quarterback Jamie Ybarra suffered a broken collarbone.
“We always knew that we had really good backup quarterbacks and they would be able to step into the role and do really well,” said Alex Thompson, Raiders receiver.
With Nanaimo down 3-1 early, Jaeden Marwick led a drive, scoring a nine-yard rushing TD with six seconds left in the first quarter to give his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
A minute and a half later Marwick found Thompson for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Ryan Jones scored a rouge on the ensuing kickoff and then closed out the first half with a 20-yard field goal set up by a Hayden Mebs fumble recovery.
The Raiders started the second half aggressively, unsuccessfully trying for a fake field goal and then turning the ball over on downs on the Rams’ five-yard line.
The Rams’ defence stalled the Raiders in the second half, but V.I.’s defence stymied Langley’s comeback attempts. The Rams managed one touchdown, a 31-yard Malcolm Williams reception with nine minutes left, but that was it.
“We didn’t put up that much [offensively], but our defence just kept shutting them down,” said Thompson, who had five catches for 106 yards. “We [could] just run the clock out, get the win and get out of there.”
Gayat led the defence with three sacks and Dylan Chapdelaine made 10 tackles. Tristian Koronkiewicz also had a sack and Cole Samson, Nigel Henry and Cole Bishop had interceptions.
“Especially with the downpour, we knew that they were going to have to run on us and coming into it we were prepared for that..” Gayat said. “We took away their options.”
Offensively, Andrew Deleon was V.I.’s top rusher with 106 yards on 10 carries but Nanaimo didn’t compile a lot of yards as a limping Marwick and then Jahmari Bennett couldn’t move the ball much in the second half. Marwick finished 7-for-14 for 141 yards and Bennett was 1-for-4. Still, coach Matthew (Snoop) Blokker was pleased with the way his team responded when its QB went down.
“We didn’t anoint anybody. It gave every guy a right to compete every day at practice. We alternated, we played them, we put all that together and I think that’s the difference in [Week 9] when our second guy had to go in, nobody worried about it…” Blokker said. “That’s the resilience of this team. This is a young team and a lot of stuff doesn’t faze them right now.”
After Saturday’s win, the Raiders were celebrating first place in the BCFC because it’s theirs as long as they defeat the last-placed Westshore Rebels in the regular season finale.
“We’re back on top, where we should be,” said Gayat.
Blokker said he’s proud of the Raiders organization.
“Now we get a chance to once again play the playoffs in front of our fans at Caledonia,” he said.
GRID BITS … The Rams’ defence was led by Joe Patko who had 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack. Evan Foster had two sacks … The Raiders play the Rebels on Saturday (Oct. 5) at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park.