To view a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s game, please click here.
This time it didn’t come down to a missed field goal.
The V.I. Raiders eliminated the Okanagan Sun from the playoffs in Saturday’s B.C. Football Conference semifinal with a convincing 34-8 win at Caledonia Park.
The Sun played the Raiders tough all season and made things interesting again in Saturday’s game, scoring a touchdown three minutes in and holding a lead until halftime. But the second half belonged to the home team, which outscored the visitors 31-0 over the final two quarters to earn the right to host next weekend’s B.C. final.
“There’s never a panic with this team, honestly,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “We just have a belief here that we’re going to win every game we play. And when you really do believe that, then your focus stays where it needs to be.”
Nanaimo’s offence was only responsible for one point in the first half, a punt single, but V.I.’s defence totally stymied the Sun after giving up the early touchdown scamper to Okie’s Alex Bradley.
“Stop the run early, make them pass the ball, that was our game plan,” said Glenn Boyce, Raiders linebacker. “Everybody executed the game plan really well.”
V.I. players said Blokker’s halftime speech got them pumped up to start the third quarter, and it showed. Quarterback Jordan Yantz punched in a pair of one-yard touchdown runs, Mark Mueller kicked a 28-yard field goal and then Dustin Rodriguez broke loose for a 57-yard TD reception.
The fourth quarter started with a Boyce interception, his first of three turnovers that he came up with in the quarter. It led to a 14-yard touchdown reception in which V.I.’s Whitman Tomusiak caught a ball that was tipped up into the air by Sun defensive back Robbie Yochim.
Turnovers were a major factor in the game as the Raiders had a 7-1 edge in that category.
“That was pretty key, actually,” said Dylan Chapdelaine, Raiders linebacker. “Everyone was just in the right spot where they had to be and it was execution, really … Everyone was doing their part.”
Blokker said the team talked all week about the importance of the turnover battle, since that was a primary reason that the Sun had played the Raiders close in two prior games at Caledonia Park. On Saturday the Nanaimo team was better at protecting the football.
“We were conscious with it all the time,” said the coach. “And at the end of the day if we have more opportunities offensively then the other team does, we’ve got a shot.”
The result marked the sixth time in the last seven years that the Raiders have eliminated the Sun from the post-season. Blokker said his team took some satisfaction in doing it again. He mentioned also that the Sun’s firing this week of coach Gavin Lake – a former Raiders assistant coach – was another source of motivation.
“Gavin’s coached a lot of these guys that are on this team and he’s personal friends with a lot of coaches on this staff,” said Blokker. “We had a little spirit for him.”
GRID BITS … The Raiders will host the Langley Rams next Saturday (Oct. 27) in the BCFC championship game at Caledonia Park. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. … Yantz finished Saturday’s game 14-for-22 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Dustin Pedersen led V.I.’s receiving corps with four catches for 97 yards and Tomusiak made six grabs for 57 yards. V.I. tailback Ashton Galloway gained 62 yards on 12 carries. Defensively, Chapdelaine made 10 tackles and assisted on one other and Ariel Fabbro had six tackles and a forced fumble. Boyce had two interceptions and a fumble recovery and Tremaine Apperley and Kurtis Bardua also had picks. Quinton Clarke, Ash Gayat and Apperley had sacks … For the Sun, quarterback Cam Bedore was 15-for-28 for 214 yards, four interceptions and no TDs. Bradley led the Sun attack with 18 carries for 150 yards. Tommy Howes made three catches for 56 yards and Ben White caught four balls for 54 yards. Yochim had a team-high eight tackles, Steven Doege had four tackles, four assists and a sack and Zac Ironstand had two sacks … B.C. Lions tailback Andrew Harris was at Caledonia Park to deliver the ceremonial kickoff and then sign autographs after the game. The Raiders alumnus became only the ninth Canadian in CFL history to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season when he reached the milestone the night before at Vancouver’s B.C. Place stadium.