V.I. Raiders receiver Dustin Rodriguez makes a one-handed catch during a drill last Wednesday night at Merle Logan Field.

V.I. Raiders receiver Dustin Rodriguez makes a one-handed catch during a drill last Wednesday night at Merle Logan Field.

Raiders reunite for main camp

The V.I. Raiders will pack up their football gear, go to main camp and try to return as a team.

The V.I. Raiders will pack up their football gear, go to main camp and try to return as a team.

Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League club takes its next step toward its 10th-anniversary season this week as it strikes main camp at Port Alberni on Thursday (July 17),

It will be the first Raiders main camp run by new head coach Brian Ridgeway, and he’s looking forward to it after spending the off-season general managing and handling all the off-field duties that fall on a junior football coach.

“Actually getting to practise is going to be awesome because we’ll be getting into the stuff I know really well,” he said.

Players have been anticipating camp for awhile now. Guys have been trickling into town lately and the throw-arounds have become more productive.

“They’ve asked us to come and coach and do a little more and get a little more intensity to it, so that’s fine with us,” Ridgeway said. “But it’s still their time. We want to make sure that they have a good culture together.”

Guys haven’t gotten their playbooks yet, but coaches have been able to pass along some of their philosophies.

“We’ve got a good pace going now at practice,” said Marshall Cook, Raiders receiver. “Everything feels good and it’s exciting to get into camp now and finally get pads on again and get going.”

Main camp is physically challenging, but Ridgeway doesn’t want it to be overly punishing.

“There’s two philosophies – you either go in hitting and grind them down and that’s how you build them up. I don’t really agree with that,” he said. “We can still work all our stuff without turning everybody into hamburger.”

Camp is five days long and three of those days will include two-a-day practices totalling four hours, plus four and a half hours of meetings.

“So it’s an all-day thing and even if you’re not beating on them, it’s physically exhausting and mentally exhausting,” Ridgeway said.

Cook said the important thing is to keep the right frame of mind at main camp.

“You get tired, and the big thing is staying mentally fresh and keeping your mind right and being able to hold through in that fifth day of practice when you’re body’s wearing down a little bit,” he said.

Players will all have something to prove at camp. Whatever they’ve done for the Raiders in the past, they now have new coaches to impress. As the Raiders rejig, Ridgeway said he’ll go with 18-year-olds over 22-year-olds if it’s a close call.

“It shouldn’t be close,” he said. “Your veterans should be that much better.”

One more factor at main camp is the time crunch. The football season is coming sooner than later, with the Raiders opening up the B.C. Football Conference schedule on the road at Langley on July 26.

“It’s not like we have three pre-season games to get ready,” Ridgeway said. “So we have to be smart about how we work on that training camp weekend with regards to being fresh on [July 26] to play.”

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