It was billed as the Collision in Kelowna, and the V.I. Raiders wrecked the Okanagan Sun, 35-3.
The B.C. Football Conference’s top two teams met at Apple Bowl stadium on Sunday and the Sun served up a Thanksgiving turkey for the 2,700 fans in attendance.
Raiders coach Matthew “Snoop” Blokker said his coaching staff kept players on track leading up to the well-attended, emotional, high-stakes game.
“They did an amazing job this week getting everyone prepared and then when the game went on, they controlled the game and the players and kept everyone focused,” he said.
The Raiders recovered a fumble on the Sun’s opening drive, then turned around and scored an early touchdown. Jordan Yantz’s six-yard TD strike to Mike Schaper proved to be all the points the visiting team needed on the day.
The Sun were thinking about point differential in the season series, said Blokker, so that first touchdown made the task even more daunting.
“[It] went from a 13-point lead to a 20-point lead [in point differential] right away and you could see them get deflated,” said the Raiders coach. “We could feel it and we just kept grinding them, grinding them and grinding them.”
The Sun kicked a field goal to make it 7-3, but were forced to concede a safety and then Yantz and Schaper connected for another TD to make it 16-3 at halftime.
The Raiders owned field position in the third quarter and although they didn’t add any majors in the third, they got nine points on two Mark Mueller field goals, another safety and a punt single.
Okie began the fourth quarter with a promising drive but turned the ball over on downs deep in V.I. territory. The Raiders assumed possession and marched the ball down the field, led by tailback Jordan Botel, before Yantz hit Whitman Tomusiak for a third passing TD on the afternoon. One more Mueller field goal rounded out the scoring.
Playing with a lead all day, the Raiders were able to play calm, patient football, getting themselves out of their end of the field with some long, time-consuming drives.
“We played a smart football game,” Blokker said. “Our tempo doesn’t change and we don’t get too high or too low.”
Raiders defensive back Adam Laurensse, tasked with covering Okie’s top receiver Dan Turek, had a standout game, as did fellow DB Tremaine Apperley. Ranji Atwall recorded a season-high nine tackles and Dylan Chapdelaine had six tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Cole Bishop had an interception.
Yantz finished the game 15-of-28 passing for 237 yards with three TDs and an interception. He wins the BCFC passing title with 2,725 yards, the fifth-most productive season in conference history. His 35 touchdown passes tie the B.C. record.
Botel clinched his second consecutive BCFC rushing title, as his 123 yards on 15 carries pushed his 2011 total to 1,225 yards.
Andrew Smith made seven catches for 76 yards, meaning the final-year Raider just missed out on a league receiving title. Smith had 799 receiving yards this season while Nick Downey of the Langley Rams had 812 yards.
GRID BITS … The Raiders (10-0) will kick off the playoffs on Saturday (Oct. 15) at 1 p.m. when Victoria’s Westshore Rebels (5-5) visit Caledonia Park … The Raiders completed their third perfect regular season in team history … The V.I. team established a new Canadian Junior Football League record for points in a single season with 551 … If the Raiders beat the Rebels next weekend – Nanaimo has never lost to Victoria in junior football – then the B.C. final will also be at Caledonia Park, quite possibly against the Sun. Blokker was asked if Sunday’s 35-3 blowout might have an impact at that time. “We can’t look at it that way,” he said. “We’ve got to maybe play that team again, and start at zero.”