The rebuilding Vancouver Island Raiders began pouring the foundation.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League club held its spring camp this past weekend at Merle Logan Field, with coaches looking at 90 players.
“It was really good,” said Brian Ridgeway, the team’s new head coach. “We wanted to focus on skill development because our average age at theis camp was 19. We had a lot of young guys; we wanted to make sure that we develop them.”
He said the coaches “didn’t want to beat [players] up too much” during spring camp, but definitely wanted to try to gauge work ethic as well as talent and knowledge of the game.
“We came up with very basic playbooks, just so we can evaluate and let guys fly around, but the big focus was on error detection and correction on the fundamentals,” Ridgeway said.
That said, there were opportunities for guys to impress with playmaking and hard hits. Micheal Ritchott, Raiders running back, said he didn’t see any drop-off in intensity over the off-season.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said. “We’re going harder, maybe, because a lot of rookies have a lot to prove this year, and so do the vets.”
The coach was happy with what he saw from guys in skill positions, as the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs all showed well. Jaeden Marwick returns at the QB position and two others at camp, Michael Lemoine and Brody Taylor, also had strong performances.
Ritchott was encouraged by the offence’s potential.
“We went out, we executed fairly well,” he said. “There’s a lot we could work on but it is only spring camp. I guess we’ll see what main camp brings.”
Ridgeway will continue to recruit between now and main camp and will particularly be considering experienced players who may be thinking about the CJFL instead of Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
For now, the Raiders coaches will immediately invite 35 guys to main camp and then sit down to watch film to determine other invitees.
“We’ll make a decision on the rest of the guys on their growth potential,” Ridgeway said. “How did they work? How did they take the coaching? Will they be worth investing a couple of years in to make them a quality player?”
He’ll also need to determine mutual interest, of course, and also off-field goals.
“It can’t just be about football at this level,” said the coach. “We’re trying to grow young men to fit into the community.”