Thunder storms over Raiders in Canadian Bowl

The Regina Thunder defeated Nanaimo's V.I. Raiders by a 55-26 score in the CJFL championship on Saturday at Regina's Mosaic Stadium.

The V.I. Raiders couldn’t keep up with the high-flying Regina Thunder in the Canadian Bowl.

The Thunder won their first-ever Canadian Junior Football League championship, storming over the Raiders 55-26 on Saturday at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.

“They outplayed us,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “They were the better team in all three phases of the game. As a team we didn’t play very good and we didn’t play good enough to win.”

The home team used an efficient pass attack to create separation and was never really threatened, leading 28-6 at halftime and 38-13 after three quarters. Blokker said Regina’s offensive line gave their quarterback Asher Hastings all the time he needed, and the Thunder receivers also showed their talent.

None of those things surprised the Raiders – they knew going in that they were playing a good team, they were just unable to match their opponent on game day.

“It was almost like we had no clue or idea of how to play,” Blokker said. “It wasn’t even so much what they did; we couldn’t even execute our own things.”

The visiting Raiders twice fumbled the ball away, with the Thunder turning both those extra possessions into touchdowns. Blokker said the first turnover, in particular, might have been a turning point as the Raiders were at the Thunder five-yard line and threatening to go up 10-7 .

Hastings was chosen Offensive Player of the Game, completing 23-of-36 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns to tie a Canadian Bowl record.

V.I. quarterback Jahmari Bennett scored all three of his team’s touchdowns, two on one-yard plunges and one from two yards out. Raiders kicker Ryan Jones was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts, one from 40 yards and one from 24 yards.

Jaeden Marwick got the start at quarterback for the Raiders and went 3-for-5 before suffering a groin injury that sidelined him the rest of the way. Bennett came in for one series, and then Jamie Ybarra, who played most of the second half, going 9-for-16 for 201 yards, before Bennett finished up. Whitman Tomusiak led the Raiders with 83 receiving yards and Dylan Schrot had 78 yards. Andrew Deleon was the Raiders’ top rusher with 71 yards.

Thunder receiver Mitch Thompson torched his former team for nine catches and 189 yards and two touchdowns and Brady Keller, Jacob Carr and Justin Banin also caught TD passes for the champs. Nick Brown scored a 48-yard rushing touchdown for Regina and finished with 203 rushing yards and Matt Frass also scored a rushing TD.

The Thunder’s Brett Selinger was selected Defensive Player of the Game with eight tackles. Mason Dick had a fumble recovery and a sack and Chris Tunnicliffe had a fumble recovery and an interception. Landon Walter also intercepted a pass.

Defensively for the Raiders, Jaxxen Wylie made an interception and Cole Bishop had a team-high five tackles.

Blokker said the point spread in the Canadian Bowl doesn’t matter, and said nobody will even remember who was the runner-up team six months from now. He said it was disappointing that after playing so well in reaching the CJFL final, his team wasn’t able to play its best in the bowl game.

“It’s very, very valuable experience, this run that we got on,” he said. “There’s a lot of learning lessons, including this loss, that a lot of these young guys can take.”

sports@nanaimobulletin.com