To view a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s game, please click here.
The V.I. Raiders have surged to the top of the standings. Nanaimo defeated the Langley Rams 41-27 on Saturday at Caledonia Park to take over first place in the B.C. Football Conference.
“It’s a high point in our season…” said Nigel Henry, V.I. linebacker. “We have confidence in ourselves and confidence in each other. It’s basically just trusting our brothers beside us so we can come out with a victory in every game.”
The game played out quite differently from the previous weekend’s win. This time, the Raiders came out with a pass-happy offensive scheme.
“We spread it out, we got a lot of one-on-one matchups and the middle of the field was wide open,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach.
Both teams made their share of big plays, especially during the second and third quarters, but the Raiders made a few more.
“We just moved the ball around,” said Andrew Deleon, Raiders running back. “They’re a great defence, they have no room for cutback lanes, so you’ve just got to hit the sidelines and go.”
Special teams were a major factor in the outcome. Mikhail Maloff ran a kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown and fellow returners Dustin Rodriguez and Deleon repeatedly gave the Raiders’ offence a short field to start drives. Meanwhile, Raiders kicker Ryan Jones made things tough on the Rams with booming kickoffs and well-placed punts.
The Raiders opened the scoring eight minutes in on a one-yard touchdown plunge from quarterback Jamie Ybarra. Rams running back Nathan Lund replied with a 27-yard TD run.
The second quarter saw Whitman Tomusiak take advantage of one-on-one coverage with a 67-yard TD reception, followed by Maloff’s return TD five minutes later. Rams receiver Jacob Carvery made an eight-yard touchdown catch.
Midway through the third quarter, Deleon broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run. The Rams looked to take some momentum with a safety followed by a 75-yard kickoff return from Lund, but 39 seconds later Raiders receiver Dylan Schrot broke a couple of tackles and sped away for a 65-yard catch-and-run TD.
Ybarra finished 17-for-32 passing for 375 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Two of the interceptions came on deflected balls. Schrot had 168 yards on six catches and Tomusiak had 106 yards on five catches.
Defensively for the Raiders, Henry and Andrew Rowe recovered fumbles, Cole Samson had an interception and Ash Gayat, Henry and Quinton Bowles had sacks. Dylan Chapdelaine had a game-high nine tackles and Henry had five.
For the Rams, Joe Patko had two interceptions, Tanner Hamade and Ben Sharpe also had INTs and Evan Foster had a sack. Nate De Rappard-Scott led his squad with seven tackles. Langley also blocked a punt.
Blokker said he “loved the effort” of his team, particularly the way the players met the physical challenge. As for the big win, it will be what the Raiders make of it.
“It means first place right now and that’s all that matters to us…” said the coach. “We’ve just got to keep battling.”
GRID BITS … Next action for the Raiders is Saturday (Sept. 21) when they visit the Westshore Rebels in a 7 p.m. game in Victoria.