Raiders get ready for home opener

Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team takes on the Langley Rams on Saturday (Aug. 10) at Caledonia Park.

There are a lot of things that the V.I. Raiders want to do better, and they’ve got the perfect stage – their home opener.

Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team takes on the Langley Rams on Saturday (Aug. 10) at Caledonia Park.

The Raiders (1-1) played their first two games of 2013 on the road, beating the Westshore Rebels and then losing to the Okanagan Sun. They’re looking forward to home-field advantage.

“There’s lots of new faces for the fans to get excited about,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “We have to give that effort that people in Nanaimo expect from us. Hopefully that motivates the guys and motivates the new guys.”

If they need more motivation, they can recall last fall’s B.C. championship game, when the Rams beat the Raiders at Caledonia. Or they can be motivated by last weekend’s 17-3 loss to the Sun.

“I think the Raider organization, coaches all the way down to players, everyone will react positively,” said Cole Samson, V.I. linebacker. “And I think definitely this week coming up we’ll play a lot better offensively and defensively.”

They will probably have to, to have a chance against a stacked Langley team. Blokker said the Rams are one of the biggest teams he’s seen in the B.C. Football Conference. Langley doesn’t just have big guys on its offensive line and defensive front seven, it also has size amongst its offensive playmakers.

“It’s about field position – you’ve got to make them earn it,” said Blokker. “And when we have our opportunities, we have to capitalize or else it’s going to be a long day.”

There are ways the Raiders can gain an edge. Blokker said against any opponent, there are matchups where his team can find an advantage.

“Whether we execute or not, that’s a different story,” said the coach. “But it comes down to consistent, fundamental football and we have to worry about doing that.”

Samson said he expects his team to come out strong at Caledonia Park, and maybe the Raiders can push their opponents around a little bit on home field.

“We want to be the toughest team out there,” he said. “If we’re the toughest team – and we might not be the most skilled – then we will win.”

It’s just Week 3, but already the Raiders have something to prove, and something to play for, and the perfect place to do it.

“We’re all looking around to see how we are going to respond and that’s the challenge,” Blokker said.

GRID BITS … The V.I. Raiders play the Langley Rams Saturday (Aug. 10) at 4 p.m. at Caledonia Park. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. Tickets will be available at the gate … Fans are asked to bring an empty water bottle to the game and the team’s mascot, Shank Show, is bringing red and black rocks to turn those water bottles into noisemakers. For any false start or time-count violation on the other team, Shank Show will toss a t-shirt into the stands.