To view a slideshow of photos from Saturday’s game, please click here.
The V.I. Raiders won again, as the Okanagan Sun missed another chance.
Saturday’s B.C. Football Conference rivalry game at Caledonia Park ended in a 32-30 win for the Raiders after the Sun missed a 37-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds.
“It was an ugly win, but it was a great win, it was a tough win,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, coach of the Raiders.
The Sun led much of the way, but V.I. kicker Mark Mueller hit a 39-yard field goal with a little over two minutes left to give his team a two-point lead.
Mueller then had a 44-yard field goal attempt blocked with 1:45 left on the clock, and the Sun were able to get into field goal range themselves. The kick was wide right, however, and the Raiders hung on. It was the second time this season that the Sun have missed a potential game-winning kick at Caledonia Park.
“Okie, whenever they come out, they always bring their A game, it’s always a tough game,” said Mueller. “When we came out after half, we brought our A game, we brought it to them and we came out with a win.”
The Raiders scored just one touchdown in the first half, as Dustin Pedersen stretched out to haul in a 16-yard reception from Jordan Yantz. The Sun, meanwhile, got a long rushing TD from Robert Giorno, a 34-yard TD catch from Ben White and an interception return TD from Blake Butler for a 21-12 halftime lead.
The third quarter was a wild one. V.I.’s Matt Sawyer downed Okanagan’s punter to give his team great field position, but as Yantz was looking for the endzone he was picked off by Robbie Yochim, who fumbled the ball back to the Raiders’ Jordan Kuziek. Yantz was able to punch in a one-yard TD.
After the teams traded field goals, Yantz led a drive in which he went over the 10,000 career passing yards mark on a throw to Sawyer, then found a leaping Mike Schaper for a 27-yard touchdown on the very next play.
The Sun’s Alex Bradley broke loose for a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to set up the exciting finish.
Mueller, having done his job with three field goals on the day, said he just tried to be loud on the sideline with the rest of his teammates as Okanagan lined up for its final field goal attempt.
“You can only do so much on the sideline,” said Mueller. “If they come down and they kick the field goal with a couple seconds left, that’s the way it goes, but it came out the other way in the end.”
Sun coach Gavin Lake was disappointed to lose, but considered the loss to be a solid performance.
“We knew we were going to be in a dogfight,” said Lake. “Our defence kept us in it and our offence made some clutch plays at the right time and we got a key drive at the end, we got some yards, we got some range and our kicker got underneath it.”
The winning coach, meanwhile, praised his own kicker as player of the game, and also liked the way Yantz and the offence adjusted at halftime. The defence, he said, “went to a different level” at the end of the game when it needed to.
“You’ve got to figure out how to win and you’ve got to stay together and you’ve got to learn how to fight and we did…” Blokker said. “I’m really proud of our effort because we ended up fighting and we got the two points.”
The Raiders said it was important to win this one and keep the momentum they gained in last weekend’s first-place showdown against the Langley Rams.
“Championship teams don’t have a big win and then fall after that, they have a big win and keep climbing,” said Yantz.
GRID BITS … Yantz finished 22-for-35 for 321 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Pedersen made eight catches for 124 yards and Schaper had eight catches for 104 yards. Defensively, Dylan Chapdelaine had eight solo tackles and four assisted tackles. Erling Skuggedal had four batted balls, Jaxxen Wylie had an interception and Shane Stonehouse had a sack. For the Sun, quarterback Cam Bedore was 13-for-27 for 174 yards with one TD and one INT and Bradley gained 95 yards on the ground. Steven Doege had two sacks … The Raiders’ next game is Saturday (Oct. 6) when it visits the Langley Rams for a 4 p.m. kickoff.