Raiders ready for playoff football

The V.I. Raiders start the playoffs Sunday (Oct. 19) in Kelowna against the top-seeded Okanagan Sun.

The V.I. Raiders aren’t ready for football to end yet, so they’ve got to win a big game.

Nanaimo’s B.C. Football Conference team opens the playoffs Sunday (Oct. 19) in Kelowna against the top-seeded Okanagan Sun.

“Any team’s beatable,” said Liam O’Brien, Raiders quarterback. “That’s why football’s awesome, is because any given Sunday, anything can happen. If we play our game and we play well, we definitely have a chance of winning.”

The Sun won all three regular-season meetings against the Raiders. Ash Gayat, V.I. defensive end, said his team was better each time out against Okanagan and the last game, the difference between winning and losing was just a couple of plays.

“We just need to minimize mistakes and have our focus there from whistle to whistle,” he said.

One of the keys to the game, said Raiders coach Brian Ridgeway, will be controlling the Sun pass rush.

“They have a very good defensive line, so if we can move the ball on the ground on them and control their pass rush, we have a very good chance of beating their defence,” he said.”

He added that it will be important to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands faster, design plays to utilize the open space created by the pass rush, and use extra blockers if need be.

O’Brien said he thinks the Raiders’ O-line is up to the challenge.

“Our offensive line’s been getting better every week and honestly, they’re a big reason why our offence has been good when it’s been good.”

As for the Raiders’ D, it will need to try to stop the Sun run game. Good run defence on first down will be a key to try to get Okie’s offence out of its comfort zone.

“Nobody has forced them to change,” said Ridgeway.

As with any playoff football game, there are intangibles. Travel shouldn’t be as much of a factor this weekend as V.I. will travel to Kelowna the day before the game. Guys will be rested and ready when they take to the Apple Bowl turf.

“A tough place to play, but it’s fun,” said Gayat. “Especially to knock a guy off in their home park, it will be pretty fun.”

Ridgeway said the Raiders will exhaust the playbook, lay their bodies on the line and leave nothing in reserve.

“It’ll be high, high intensity, a lot more physical, and we’ll see what we’ve got,” he said.

GAME ON … V.I. and Okie play Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl … The B.C. Football Conference announced its all-stars earlier this week and O’Brien, Gayat, receiver Marshall Cook and linebacker Dylan Chapdelaine were chosen.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com