The V.I. Raiders dictated the play against a determined Victoria Rebels team and advanced to the B.C. final.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team defeated the Westshore Rebels 49-17 in playoff action Saturday at Caledonia Park.
“We were able to score early and stretch it out and run the football early against them,” said Matthew “Snoop” Blokker, Raiders coach. “Sometimes it’s not going to be as pretty and flashy as what you see in the regular season but the end result is what matters.”
V.I. quarterback Jordan Yantz opened the scoring on a one-yard keeper five minutes into the game following a Victoria turnover on downs at midfield.
The Rebels kicked a field goal, then the teams traded long passing touchdowns before the first quarter ended in a 15-10 lead for the home side.
The Raiders started the second quarter with a 70-yard touchdown run from fullback Ashton Galloway, then turned two Westshore turnovers into touchdowns. A 20-yard TD catch from Andrew Smith and a 24-yard run from Jordan Botel gave the Raiders an insurmountable 35-10 halftime lead.
V.I.’s swarming defence is unmatched when it comes to forcing turnovers, and Blokker said that was a key on Saturday.
“We feel if we give our offence a few more tries than what the opposition’s getting, we’re going to be in some good hands,” he said.
The ground game was another storyline. Victoria’s tailback Greg Morris had a field day the last time he played at Caledonia, and Vic’s other back Niles Goguen demanded attention in the film room, too.
“We knew that those two were their offence, so us linebackers and D-line were focused on them a lot during the game and making proper reads, getting in the right gaps and tackling,” said Ranji Atwall, Raiders linebacker.
Morris and Goguen were held in check for the most part, while Nanaimo’s running backs Botel and Galloway both had 100-yard games.
“As much talk as there was about [the Rebels’ backfield], we still feel ours is the best in the league…” Blokker said. “Botel had some big holes and some big rips and we just fed off it.”
Saturday’s game was only the second playoff meeting between the Island teams – they last met in post-season action in 2006 – so the Raiders got the rare opportunity to boot their rivals into the off-season.
Rebels lineman Jack Allen was proud of how his team prepared and played.
“It’s a tough loss when you put all this time into it,” he said. “[Both teams] dug pretty deep. It was a battle, it was tough. We were fighting.”
Raiders receiver Whitman Tomusiak, who scored two touchdowns, said Victoria came to play and played a good game.
“I’m happy we got the ‘W’,” he said. “There were plays … that we left on the field. We’re going to have to fix those as the games are just getting harder from here on out … Hopefully we keep on rolling. This is the start.”
The Raiders will now scout the B.C. Football Conference’s other semifinal game tomorrow (Oct. 16) in Kelowna between the Okanagan Sun and the Langley Rams.
“I’d love another shot at the Sun, there’s no doubt about that. We’d love to have them back in our park again. We’re not done with those guys,” Blokker said. “But Langley right now is playing possessed and they really feel confident against the Sun, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them come out of it, either.”
Atwall said winning the B.C. final will be “a tough task” no matter the opposition.
“Whoever it is, Surrey or Okanagan, they’re going to come out gunning for us,” he said. “It’s their last game, their last shot, they’re going to bring everything they’ve got so we’ve got to be ready.”
GRID BITS … The Raiders’ other touchdown Saturday was scored by Andrew DeLeon on a three-yard run with three minutes left in the game … Yantz finished 10-of-17 passing for 212 yards. Botel gained 114 yards on 16 carries and Galloway reached 109 yards on just five carries. Tomusiak was the game’s top receiver with three catches for 123 yards including a 71-yard major. Defensively, Atwall led the way with eight tackles and a sack and Dylan Chapedlaine had six tackles. James Riley also had a sack and Skylor Letcher and Adam Laurensse intercepted passes. For Westshore, QB Cat Todorovich was 13-for-32 for 311 yards … The BCFC final will be played Saturday (Oct. 22) at Caledonia Park. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.