V.I. Raiders can climb into first

NANAIMO – The V.I. Raiders host the Langley Rams this Saturday (Sept. 14) at Caledonia Park.

Things can change in a hurry in the B.C. Football Conference.

The V.I. Raiders, buoyed by a big win last weekend, are now about to battle for first place. The men in black host the Langley Rams this Saturday (Sept. 14) at Caledonia Park.

Nanaimo is coming off a 45-17 victory over the Okanagan Sun last weekend.

“A big win like that kind of gives everybody a sense of belief that what we are doing and the path we’re on is the right one,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach.

It could be a turning point in the season, but that’s yet to be determined.

“If we don’t win this week, I guess it’s not that much of a turning point,” the coach said.

So the focus falls completely now on the task at hand, a matchup with B.C.’s defending champions.

Not many opposing teams win at Caledonia Park, but the Rams have done it twice in row – last fall’s provincial championship, and then a 36-28 game last month.

“We’re going to see who’s gotten better since the last time we played,” said Blokker. “We’re healthier than we’ve been, we feel we’re playing better than we have and we’ve got a little more confidence than what we had when we played them the first time.”

Ashton Galloway, V.I. fullback, said the Raiders are a totally different team than they were five weeks ago.

“We’ve progressively been getting better during the season,” he said. “Every single week, at practice we get better and better.”

The Rams are coming off a blowout win themselves, 49-17 over the Westshore Rebels last weekend in which they were led by tailback Kyle Albertini’s 215 rushing yards.

Blokker said the teams’ offences have some similarities – both can run the ball effectively, and both have receivers that demand double coverage.

Blokker said the Raiders’ D isn’t having as many lapses lately, and its up-front play has been effective at stopping the run. One of the keys, the coach said, will be to try to contain Langley’s quarterback Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren who leads the BCFC in both passing and rushing touchdowns.

The Raiders’ primary goal on Saturday will be to win a football game, obviously, but if they can manage to win by nine points or more, they will ascend to the top of the standings.

“That’s what every team wants and that’s exactly what we want,” said Galloway.

GAME ON … The Raiders and Rams kick off Saturday at 2 p.m. at Caledonia Park. Tickets will be available at the gate.