In the rain and the mud at Caledonia Park, the chance to win the B.C. championship slipped away from the V.I. Raiders.
The Langley Rams held onto the football, held onto the lead and now hold the Cullen Cup after winning 20-13 in Saturday’s B.C. Football Conference final.
Too many Raiders’ drives ended in a turnover instead of points, and the home team ran out of time, and chances. In the first half V.I. fumbled on the 16-yard line and then on the one-yard line, and those miscues were magnified when the rains came in the second half and scoring chances were harder to come by for both teams.
“You’ve got to capitalize when you have those opportunities and unfortunately we didn’t,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, V.I. coach.
The Raiders had won six straight BCFC championships going into Saturday’s game, but the Rams didn’t play intimidated.
“I believed 100 per cent,” said Evan Foster, chosen defensive player of the game. “We had a good week of practice, a good game plan. We went out there and executed … It feels just unreal.”
He said the Rams’ defence was simple but effective, pressuring Raiders quarterback Jordan Yantz and at the same time stopping the run.
“We gave them a couple different cover schemes, a couple different blitzes but kudos to our players, they made plays when we needed them to make plays,” said Jeff Alamolhoda, Rams coach. “They were in the spots where they needed to be, but they made the plays and that’s outstanding.”
All the touchdowns came in the first quarter. The Raiders scored on the game’s opening drive, ending with a one-yard TD run by Ashton Galloway, but the Rams answered two minutes later as Malcolm Williams caught a five-yard TD. V.I.’s Mark Mueller kicked a 31-yard field goal, then Langley did one better with a 13-yard TD catch by Nick Downey.
Most of the second, third and fourth quarters were played around the middle of the field, with a lot of penalties and punts and neither team able to really wrest control.
Mueller kicked a 16-yard field goal with three minutes left in the fourth quarter and Yantz and his offence had two more series after that to try to tie the game, but couldn’t.
“They got some pressure once in awhile on us and they did a good job in coverage,” Blokker said. “And they were able to get hands on our receivers and jam a little bit and when you’re in these conditions, it’s hard to get off that.”
Yantz said the conditions affected his offence’s timing.
“They were giving us pressure, which in this weather, it’s tough to get rid of the football that much quicker,” he said.
He ended up throwing four interceptions, two of which bounced out of his receivers’ hands. He also had what looked like a sure touchdown pass clunk against the upright in the first quarter.
“Sometimes it’s not your day and today was the Langley Rams’ day,” Blokker said. “And you have to give them credit for coming in here and battling as hard as they did and getting the win.”
Every loss is a missed opportunity, Blokker said, but he said he’s proud of his guys.
“It’s a gutsy team,” he said. “We fought and battled every game that we played in and hats off to these guys.”
Football season, now, ends too soon, especially for Yantz and the other graduating Raiders.
“It’s not the way I wanted to go out, and it’s tough to swallow,” said the QB, still in his uniform long after the final whistle. “But the opportunity that the red and black has given me over the past five years … I’m just so proud to be part of it, and these are the moments when you look at that.”
GRID BITS … Yantz finished 16-for-34 for 213 yards. Whitman Tomusiak made six catches for 112 yards and Dustin Pedersen had five catches for 42 yards. The Raiders’ defence was led by Jon Jones, who made seven tackles, broke up a pass and recovered three fumbles. Dylan Chapdelaine made eight tackles and Ash Gayat had four tackles and two sacks … Langley quarterback Greg Bowcott was selected offensive player of the game after going 10-for-20 for 227 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Downey made five catches for 85 yards. Kyle Albertini had 17 carries for 59 yards. Defensively, Foster had four tackles and two sacks, Carlo Graziano had two fumble recoveries and an interception and Tanner Hamade had two picks. Langley kicker Nick Naylor was chosen special teams player of the game, hitting field goals from 23 yards and 18 yards out … The Canadian Bowl national final will be played at Langley’s McLeod Park on Nov. 10.