Raiders gritty, lucky in win against Sun

NANAIMO – The V.I. Raiders edged the Sun 30-29 Saturday at Caledonia Park after the visitors missed a 10-yard field goal with a minute left.

V.I. Raiders running back Taylor Flavel pushes Okanagan Sun opponent Sheldon MacDonald during Saturday's Canadian Junior Football League game at Nanaimo's Caledonia Park. The Raiders won 30-29.

V.I. Raiders running back Taylor Flavel pushes Okanagan Sun opponent Sheldon MacDonald during Saturday's Canadian Junior Football League game at Nanaimo's Caledonia Park. The Raiders won 30-29.

To view a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s game, please click here.

The V.I. Raiders defeated the Okanagan Sun after an incredible football game and an improbable finish.

The Raiders edged the Sun 30-29 on Saturday at Caledonia Park after the visitors missed a 10-yard field goal with 50 seconds left.

“Just a hell of a football game,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “We’re still young and we’re still stupid and we’re still making a gazillion mistakes but at least we’re not making the mistakes that I think you can’t fix, and that’s heart and desire and belief.”

Both teams seemed to believe they could win, which made for a back-and-forth game the entire evening as the B.C. Football Conference rivals traded touchdowns. With less than two minutes to go and V.I. up 30-28, Nanaimo’s Ariel Fabbro made an interception that looked like it might seal the win. On the very next play, however, V.I. quarterback Jordan Yantz was pressured and threw an interception that was returned all the way to the six-yard line.

The Raiders’ defence held, but Sun kicker Steven McFadyen had a chip shot field goal that might have won the game.

“Early in the game they had no faith in the guy…” said Blokker. “We realized that and just before they were going to kick, we called a timeout to try to ice him, let him think about it. And sometimes a 10-yard field goal feels like a 50, then.”

The attempt went wide left.

“We got lucky…” Blokker said. “Sometimes corny things happen in sports if you start believing and today I think we really believed.”

The Sun did get the ball back, but time ran out on them, and the Raiders extended their seven-year regular-season undefeated streak on home field.

“It was hard work, but also a little bit of luck and a lot of grit,” said Michael Schaper, Raiders receiver. “I love playing the Okanagan Sun because they always bring their A game and I love beating the Okanagan Sun because they always bring their A game.”

Schaper said the game felt like a championship game and Blokker called it a huge win for this stage of the season.

“There is no better feeling in the world than beating the Okanagan Sun,” he said.

Rockenson Angrand, V.I. defensive back, said the Raiders knew the Sun were going to come to play hard.

“They’re a good opponent, we respect those guys,” he said. “They hit us in the mouths, we hit back and they kept fighting.”

Sun coach Gavin Lake lamented penalties and missed opportunities to score as the difference in the game.

“You don’t want to lose,” said Lake. “I wouldn’t say heart-breaking is the word, but it’s certainly unfortunate, and we have to get better at those things.”

The Raiders also plan to use the game to improve. Ashton Galloway, V.I. tailback, said his team has a lot of work to do.

“We’re not used to winning like this, we usually put up a lot of points,” he said. “But we’re just going to keep working, week after week and continue to get better.”

Angrand said Saturday’s win will help a Raiders team that he said is still learning how to play the game.

“We’re learning how to be consistent, we’re learning how to keep going,” he said. “It’s going to be a long [season]. You win some, you lose some, you get hit, you don’t quit. Fate loves the fearless.”

GRID BITS … Schaper had a monster game with 180 yards on seven catches, including a 98-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Dustin Pedersen had a 20-yard TD catch, Galloway had a one-yard TD run and Mark Mueller kicked a 26-yard field goal. Yantz was 21-of-34 for 404 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. Defensively, the Raiders forced three safeties and Ash Gayat and Anthony Bienvenue had sacks … For the Sun, QB Cam Bedore was 13-for-29 for 252 yards with one INT plus TDs passes to Ben White, Bobby Davis and Jesse Kendall. Defensively for the Sun, Alexander Hupe had a fumble-recovery touchdown and an interception … The Raiders gained 79 rushing yards compared to the Sun’s 24, and V.I. had 23 first downs while Okie had eight … To view 20 of the News Bulletin’s best photographs from Saturday’s game, please click here … Nanaimo’s next game is on the road Saturday (Aug. 25) against the Kamloops Broncos … The Raider Girls dance team is holding a car wash and bottle drive fundraiser that day (Aug. 25) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Mid-Island Co-op gas station on Bowen Road.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com