V.I. Raiders get to play Rebels

The V.I. Raiders are getting ready to play a pre-season game against the Westshore Rebels this Saturday (July 23) on the road.

V.I. Raiders running back Bryce Ethier

V.I. Raiders running back Bryce Ethier

The name may have changed, but the rivalry remains the same.

The V.I. Raiders are getting ready to play a pre-season game against the Westshore Rebels this Saturday (July 23) on the road.

Formerly the Victoria Rebels, the Westshore team changed its name this past off-season. What won’t change is the fierce rivalry between Vancouver Island’s two Canadian Junior Football League teams, even in pre-season.

Nanaimo is 18-0 all-time against Victoria including pre-season games, so that clean sheet is at stake every time the teams play. At this time of year, though, the Raiders will be mostly concerned with themselves.

“We’re going to really monitor the plays and make sure that we get an opportunity to get all the right guys in,” said Matthew “Snoop” Blokker, Raiders coach. “It’s all about making sure they’re the right reps at the right time. Then [we’ll] evaluate and see when the jerseys are on and the whistle blows, which players are willing to absolutely lay it on the line?”

The players crave game action. Raiders receiver Mike Schaper said players can only hit their teammates so hard at practice, but at game time, they can let their intensity and adrenalin take over.

“The whole off-season’s been so long, I can’t wait to get the actual colours on and go out and bang around and have some fun,” Schaper said.

GAME ON … The Raiders and Rebels kick off Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bear Mountain Stadium. The V.I. squad opens the regular season July 30 on the road against the Langley Rams.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com