The V.I. Raiders won their first game, and they intend to only get better.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team started the 2013 season with a 35-10 win over the Westshore Rebels on Saturday night in Victoria.
The game was disjointed, with tons of penalties and a few too many plays going awry.
“You could sure tell on the field today, I think both teams would agree, it felt like a pre-season game and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach.
The turning point came late in the third quarter with the score 18-10 for Nanaimo. After the Rebels came up with their third interception of the game, Raiders linebacker Dylan Chapdelaine intercepted the ball back, leading to a 17-yard touchdown run from V.I. quarterback Jahmari Bennett.
“I liked the way we played in the second half,” Blokker said. “I thought we got our spirit a little bit more and we got a little more physical and kind of took over.”
Taylor Flavel scored the first touchdown of the season on a one-yard run five minutes after kickoff. Jordan Kuziek got his team the ball back right away with a fumble recovery, and one play later Bennett found Dustin Rodriguez for a 20-yard TD reception.
The second quarter was all Rebels, as they scored a one-yard rushing TD and hit a 34-yard field goal.
After the Raiders regained control in the third, they kept coming in the fourth. Ash Gayat’s fumble recovery led to a 22-yard field goal from Ryan Jones, then V.I. backup quarterback Jaeden Marwick eluded Westshore’s entire defence for a 54-yard TD run.
Raiders defensive end Quinton Bowles, who had a sack, said players decided at halftime that they needed to start being the bullies.
“Once we were in the locker room we realized that we needed to get our intensity a lot higher,” he said.
Nigel Henry, Raiders linebacker, said his team realized it played “stupid” in the first half and tried to put that in the past.
“We just had to get our energy up and make sure that we didn’t get down on ourselves for the mistakes that we made,” he said.
The mistakes are correctible, said Blokker. He saw a lack of cohesion in some of the units, and saw guys turning the wrong way, and said those are the sort of things will just take reps.
“That first win’s a big win, so that people stop doubting themselves as much,” Henry said. “The guys that maybe haven’t got as much playing experience in starting roles, now they know what they’re doing and they know they know what they’re doing and can play at full speed.”
GRID BITS … Jahmari Bennett finished 8-of-19 passing for 96 yards, one touchdown throw and three picks. Ashton Galloway had three catches for 34 yards and Taylor Flavel led the run game with 11 carries for 82 yards. The Raiders as a team gained 257 yards on the ground. Defensively, Henry made seven tackles and Ariel Fabbro had four … The Raiders play the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Aug. 3) at 7 p.m. at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl stadium … In other Week 1 scores around the B.C. Football Conference, the Sun defeated the Chilliwack Huskers 65-10 in the Okanagan and the Langley Rams shut out the Kamloops Broncos 51-0 in the Fraser Valley.