Junior football season will be exciting, if the first game is any indication.
The V.I. Raiders and Langley Rams played a barnburner to start the B.C. Football Conference campaign, with the Rams hanging on to beat the Raiders 44-36 on Saturday in the Fraser Valley.
The Rams led the game 37-14 early in the third quarter, but the Raiders kept coming and were driving in the final minute before they ran out of time.
Brian Ridgeway, Raiders coach, was undaunted by the defeat, saying his players were “outstanding” in the opener.
“Being down at halftime and having all the bounces go the other way, playing the whole 60 minutes was great to see,” Ridgeway said. “I was very happy with how the boys performed.”
He thought guys got better as the game went on and pointed out that his team’s defence shut down the opposition in the second half.
“They were put into some really bad positions, field-position-wise, and they held,” the coach said.
The Rams did their damage on big plays, including some game-changing special teams plays. Langley had two fumble recoveries that led to scores, plus a kickoff-return touchdown. The Rams also scored on a long interception return.
The Raiders, meanwhile, were more productive on offence, outgaining the home team 336 yards to 273. Nanaimo was led by receiver Marshall Cook, who tied a BCFC record with 14 catches and finished with 208 receiving yards. New V.I. quarterback Liam O’Brien completed 24 of 37 passes for 306 yards.
Running back Nathan Berg scored three rushing TDs for the Raiders, Cook had a 28-yard TD catch and O’Brien ran in V.I.’s other major.
The Rams’ player of the game was John Beckerleg, who scored a 90-yard kickoff-return TD and then an 84-yard pick six. Langley also got receiving TDs from Malcolm Williams and Tore Corrado and three field goals from Steve Thomas.
Defensively, Dylan Chapdelaine had five tackles and an interception, Nigel Henry, Ash Gayat and Nathan Warawa had sacks and Dexter Shea and Quinton Bowles had five tackles apiece.
The Rams’ top tackler was Ethan Schulz of Nanaimo, who had six tackles and a sack. Another former Nanaimo Redmen player, Dylan Tucker, is Langley’s starting QB this season and he was 13-for-20 for 223 yards in the opener.
One other noteworthy stat from Saturday’s game was penalties. The Rams were flagged 21 times and their 245 penalty yards were fifth-most in BCFC history.
Ridgeway saw a lot of standout performances in Week 1, he said, and now he and his assistant coaches will make adjustments, move around some personnel, and seek improvement.
“What it is is practice, practice, practice,” the coach said. “We know what we have and as a coaching staff, we have a fairly good idea of what we need to do to make it better.”
GAME ON … The V.I. Raiders visit the Westshore Rebels on Saturday (Aug. 2) in a 7 p.m. game at Victoria’s Westhills Stadium … Nanaimo’s home opener isn’t until Aug. 16.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) July 27, 2014