To view a slideshow of photos from Saturday's game, please click here.
The V.I. Raiders are right back in the chase for first place after a clear victory over the league's top team.
The Raiders defeated the Okanagan Sun 45-17 in B.C. Football Conference action on Saturday at Caledonia Park.
"You only get a chance once a week to prove whether you're good, bad or average and I thought today we proved to ourselves we're a pretty good team," said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach.
Nanaimo led 17-0 at halftime and 31-3 after three quarters, but Kelowna pushed back with two majors in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. An 88-yard interception return touchdown by Andrew Rowe with three and a half minutes left sealed the victory.
"It's a four-quarter game and you've got to play every minute of it," said Cole Bishop, who had two first-half interceptions.
Nanaimo's offence centred around its run game, as eight different players carried the ball, amassing 286 yards and four rushing TDs. The Raiders especially leaned on the run game early, capping their first drive with a five-yard rushing TD from Ashton Galloway.
Ryan Jones kicked a 10-yard field goal in the second quarter and Whitman Tomusiak scored an eight-yard rushing TD.
In the second half, Dylan Schrot scored a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown from quarterback Jamie Ybarra, then, after Okanagan kicked a 16-field goal, Tomusiak scored his second rushing TD of the game, this time a 26 yarder.
The Sun's Dillon Fortune scored on an eight-yard TD reception early in the fourth, then Okie blocked a punt that Dan Ruddy recovered in the endzone for a second TD. A sack by Nanaimo's Ash Gayat on the Sun's next drive slowed the visitors' momentum. Rowe and then Ybarra, on a 12-yard run TD, closed out the scoring.
Ybarra finished 9-of-15 for 146 yards with one TD and one INT. Galloway was top rusher with seven carries for 61 yards.
Jaxxen Wylie had the Raiders' other interception, Gayat had one and a half sacks and Dylan Chapdelaine and Cole Samson also got to the quarterback. Chapdelaine made seven tackles and Ariel Fabbro had five.
"I think this is the kind of game that we needed, to prove to ourselves that we're actually a contender in this league," said Ybarra.
Blokker said he and the coaching staff didn't feel as though they prepared their team well enough for the last meeting with the Sun, a 17-3 loss in Kelowna.
"We've been waiting for this game and this challenge to prove to ourselves that we're a hell of a lot better football team, and we deserve to be viewed as a top-ranked team," said the coach.
Bishop said the Raiders knew they could play with the best teams, but said the best team hasn't been determined yet, and won't be, for some time.
"We've got to take the momentum we've taken and just ride on and continue to stay humble and continue to keep working," he said.
GRID BITS … The Raiders host the Langley Rams on Saturday (Sept. 14) at 2 p.m. at Caledonia Park. For ticket information, click here.