The V.I. Raiders, provincial champions, have earned the opportunity to find out what comes next.
Nanaimo’s junior football team plays the Jostens Cup national semifinal this Saturday (Oct. 26) in Ontario against the Windsor AKO Fratmen.
The same day that the Raiders outscored the Langley Rams 48-37 to win the B.C. Football Conference championship, the Fratmen got past the Hamilton Hurricanes 16-9 in the Ontario Football Conference title game. Now the victors line up to see who will advance to the Canadian Bowl on the Prairies.
B.C.’s champions are always favoured against Ontario’s, but there will be a lot of unknowns as two programs meet for the first time ever.
“It’s the same for them; they don’t know a lot about us, either,” said Cole Bishop, Raiders defensive back. “We just have to expect they’re going to be the best opponent we’re going to play and we have to come out and play them that way.”
Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach, said his team needs to take care of its own game, focusing on execution and tempo.
“Be fast every play, gang tackle, swarm, all the fundamental things,” he said.
The Fratmen use a run-first offence that the Raiders think they can stymie.
“Our front seven enjoys playing against the run,” Blokker said.
Defensively, Windsor has good athletes at every position but tend to stick with man coverage that might not match up favourably against V.I. all-star receiver Whitman Tomusiak and company.
“If teams are going to challenge us and leave [our receivers] one-on-one, then we’re going to make some big plays,” Blokker said. “And we also feel we can run the football against that style of defence.”
The Raiders have won nine straight football games, and have helped their cause with productive first quarters.
“If we do that and make them chase us, they get out of their game plan and we can settle into ours,” said the coach.
It will be a challenge for the Raiders to really get comfortable out east, though. It’s a much longer road trip than they’re accustomed to, an earlier kickoff and an unfamiliar field.
“We’ve just got to get a feel for everything out there, and rest, and minds focused and I think we should be fine,” said Fabian Ross, V.I. defensive back.
The Raiders are on a roll, and they feel they can win wherever, whenever.
“I’ll play these guys in the parking lot of the field if I have to. I’ll play them at two o’clock in the morning. I don’t really care,” Bishop said. “And I think that’s what we have to have, is that attitude – we don’t care when, where. We just want to play football.”
GAME ON … The Raiders and Fratmen kick off Saturday (Oct. 26) at 11 a.m. Pacific time.