The ultimate goal every year for the V.I. Raiders is to win a national championship. If they try to build a team that can do that, said coach Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, then the team will fare just fine in the B.C. Football Conference.
Nanaimo’s junior football team starts working toward all its goals this weekend (May 11-13) as it hosts its annual spring camp at Nanaimo District Secondary School.
The Raiders expect to have 80-90 players in camp. It won’t be the biggest spring camp in Canadian junior football, but it’s a manageable number of players.
“We’ve done a really good job this year, we feel, at recruiting specific players and needs, and we have a great core of guys that are returning,” said Blokker.
After the Raiders’ loss to the Saskatoon Hilltops in last autumn’s national semifinal, Blokker said it was important for the V.I. team to focus on preventing opponents from running the ball up the middle of the field. The Raiders coach is interested to see the new talent at defensive line, which he said will be bigger, stronger and experienced in 2012.
CFLers and Raiders alumni Andrew Harris and Brian Ridgeway lead the group of guest coaches.
An intrasquad game is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.
Team will choose new defensive coordinator
The V.I. Raiders are known for their stingy defence just as much as they’re known for their high-flying offence. So the team intends to make sure that defence continues to be a strength.
The D will have a new look in 2012 as longtime defensive coordinator Doug Hocking has accepted a job as linebackers coach with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
The former CFLer was head coach of the Raiders in 2007 and guided that team to the national semifinal.
Blokker said the V.I. team is excited for Hocking. He was asked if the club needs to find another defensive coordinator with Hocking’s off-the-charts intensity.
“Doug Hocking’s Doug Hocking. We need to find a guy that brings his own flavour and his own style and touch,” said Blokker. “Moreso than anything, we just need to carry on with our approach, the way we play defence and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Blokker said he won’t look outside the Raiders organization for a defensive coordinator, and will instead promote from within the club.
He hasn’t ruled out taking over the defence himself but said that’s not his preference and if he does so, he would see it as a temporary measure.
Raiders’ Yantz confirms return
The V.I. Raiders will have their leader back in 2012. Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League club will hold a press conference today (May 10) to confirm that quarterback Jordan Yantz will return for a final season.
Blokker said the QB considered a move to the CIS but interest from the CFL’s B.C. Lions is one of the factors that led to Yantz’s decision to stick around.
Look for more on this story in an upcoming issue.