Going into the last game of the regular season, all the V.I. Raiders could do was try to win a football game and head into playoffs the right way.
That happened, as Nanaimo defeated the Chilliwack Valley Huskers 22-14 on Saturday at Caledonia Park to conclude the B.C. Football Conference regular season.
The matchup determined third place in the standings and the two teams battled for it for four quarters, embroiled in a one-score football game until the Raiders went up by two scores with five minutes left. The Huskers added a late TD to make things interesting but the Raiders hung on.
“Our coach told us, just go out and have fun and that’s what we did. It was the first time in a while we just put no stress on ourselves and just went and played,” said Rhett Williams, Raiders tailback.
“We just wanted to keep it simple, just play smashmouth football and that’s what we did.”
Williams had a huge day running the football and scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge in the fourth quarter.
“The O line just got low and it was a pretty easy game being a running back, honestly,” Williams said. “It was just patience in the backfield. I would make a cut one way, let the defence bounce out that way and my O line just kept on blocking.”
On defence, the game star was cornerback Gevhahn McNally-Hardistry who had three interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked punt.
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Here's V.I. Raiders defensive back Gevhahn McNally-Hardisty after his third (!) interception of the game. The Raiders beat the Valley Huskers 22-14… pic.twitter.com/ERhTP3NVYA
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) October 14, 2018
McNally-Hardisty said the Raiders’ defensive players raised their game to “pretty close to their best” and knew who to watch for from the other team and respected the opposition.
He said the Raiders played a good 60 minutes of football.
“We can always improve,” he said. “Coming into the post-season, we made a couple mental errors and stuff like that and it can’t happen. So we’re just going to work getting everything right, getting everything tight and playing better in post-season.”
McNally-Hardisty said Saturday’s win was an important one for the Raiders.
“We’ve had a couple losses in these last few games and we had to get back on track. We needed a win,” he said. “Winning going into the playoffs is huge momentum, a huge uplift for our team. I’m really happy with our win, I thought everybody played pretty great and I’m excited for the post-season.”
North Rainey scored V.I.’s first touchdown on a 78-yard reception from quarterback Jake Laberge. Williams’s TD capped a day in which he gained 247 rush yards on 27 carries. Laberge scored a rushing TD and finished 7-for-22 passing for 115 yards with a TD and three INTs.
Safety Shawn Arabsky had a strong game with an interception, a fumble recovery and four tackles. Matthew Cox also had four tackles. McNally-Hardisty’s three interceptions were one off the league record of four.
GAME ON … The Raiders finish third in the BCFC and will face the Langley Rams in a semifinal matchup Saturday, Oct. 20, on the mainland. A kickoff time has not yet been announced.