Langley Rams defensive back John Beckerleg

Langley Rams defensive back John Beckerleg

Raiders upset Rams in a wild one

Nanaimo's V.I. Raiders defeated the previously unbeaten Langley Rams by a 52-44 score on Saturday at Caledonia Park.

V.I. shocked Langley, and probably the league, with a barnburner 52-44 upset win this weekend.

Nanaimo’s V.I. Raiders defeated the previously unbeaten Langley Rams on Saturday at Caledonia Park thanks to huge plays on special teams, some tricks, and a no-quit effort.

“There was so many ups and downs…” said Ash Gayat, V.I. defensive end. “But whenever we’re down, we’re not actually down on ourselves; we’re still playing a 0-0 football game.”

The Rams led 44-28 late in the third quarter, but the Raiders scored two touchdowns in 28 seconds to make it a two-point game going into the fourth quarter. The Raiders’ defence stood tall in the final quarter, allowed its offence to score the necessary points, and left the Rams with only a hail mary attempt as time expired.

The Raiders celebrated exuberantly at game’s end.

“It’s great to have the guys win, expecially in this fashion, because it’s going to allow them to believe more,” said Brian Ridgeway, Raiders coach. “Now they get to actually feel the success.”

Micheal Ritchott was the difference maker for the Raiders early, scoring their first three touchdowns. He returned the opening kickoff for a major, broke free for a 105-yard catch-and-run TD on V.I.’s first offensive series, then added a 108-yard kick-return TD early in the second quarter.

Ridgeway said the special teams plays gave his team a boost.

“It’s a quick hitter, so everyone’s feeling good instantly,” the coach said.

Ritchott said the Raiders devoted a lot of repetitions to special teams this week.

“We were all ready, we were assignment conscious and we knew what we were going to do right at the first play of the game,” he said.

Another storyline was trick plays – the Raiders executed three of them. Dustin Rodriguez scored a TD on a 75-yard hook-and-ladder with Marshall Cook, Matias Bueno and Cory Lewis pulled off an onside kick and Gayat made a first-down reception late in the game on a tight-end eligible play.

Ridgeway said he has to be convinced to run trick plays.

“They’re there [in the playbook],” he said. “I don’t like the trickery plays because there’s so many things that have to happen correctly. If one thing goes wrong it’s a real bad play but when it works effectively, man, it’s awesome, and it brings the crowd right up.”

Aside from Ritchott’s hat trick and Rodriguez’s TD, the Raiders also got majors from Taylor Flavel on a one-yard run, Arthur Fabbro on a five-yard reception and Cook on a 20-yard reception. Bueno’s 16-yard field goal rounded out the scoring. Quarterback Liam O’Brien was 17-for-26 passing for 336 yards and three TDs.

Defensively, Daniel Dubinski had five tackles, a blocked kick and three pass knockdowns, Kyle Vollet had a sack, Josh Paisley made eight tackles and Nigel Henry and Dylan Chapdelaine had five tackles apiece.

For the Rams, John Beckerleg had a 78-yard kick-return TD, Dylan Tucker scored a two-yard rushing TD, Kyle Pich made a three-yard TD catch, Dan English had a nine-yard TD catch and Jordan Traversy scored on a 12-yard run. Steve Thomas kicked field goals of 40 yards and 37 yards. Tucker was 14-for-29 for 188 yards and two TDs.

Defensively for Langley, Ethan Schulz had two fumble recoveries and Ali Hosain, Ryan Nicholls and Brandon Klein had sacks.

The Raiders will go into a bye week feeling good about themselves, about their improvement and about their potential.

“It will strive guys to push even harder, make even more plays,” said Ritchott. “It’s going to make our whole team better.”

Gayat said the Raiders are young and developing but can be great by season’s end.

“Now we know we can play,” he said. “We know our top level, so there’s no reason for us to play down to anyone. Now we have to play, we have to be the best, we have to win.”

GRID BITS … This article will be updated with official statistics once they become available … The Raiders don’t play again until Sept. 6, when they host the Valley Huskers in a 3 p.m. kickoff at Caledonia Park.