The V.I. Raiders, defending B.C. champs, took an important step toward making sure they’re contenders again in 2018.
Nanaimo’s junior football team held its spring camp this past weekend at NDSS Community Field.
Coach Doug Hocking said it was an “awesome” few days for the Raiders.
“Our competition level was up, our talent level was up, we’re bigger, we’re faster this year, I feel we’re way ahead of where we were last year at this time,” he said. “So I’m really happy coming out of camp right now.”
Last year’s Cullen Cup victory is in the past, but there is some carry-over.
“I think guys understand their potential with what we did last year,” Hocking said. “And picking up from where we left off, I think this off-season, with our training and our programs, going into this spring camp has been more of a ‘mission’ mindset.”
There were between 70-75 players at spring camp this weekend and although that’s down from some other years, it was the right number for the Raiders, Hocking said.
“We wanted to bring in 75 kids that can clearly play at this level, that are going to compete every day and now that’s the group that we’ll try to carry forward into July,” he said.
He complimented every position group, pointing to good depth in the defensive back corps and at receiver and running back, and said the D-line looks great – big, physical, strong and fast. The most glaring need is for depth on the offensive line; Hocking said the Raiders will work hard on that front.
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He hopes the recruits who came out for spring camp will now sign on with the team; for the Raiders’ part, “we’re committed to bringing them in.”
Defensive back recruit Isaiah Johns, of London, Ont., said the Raiders program intrigued him because he wants play at a high level this season and get opportunities to contribute.
“A lot of the vets are really good, welcoming in a lot of the new recruits,” Johns said. “I definitely think we’ve got a great group of guys out here.”
Running back recruit Jason Henderson of Winnipeg said the atmosphere at spring camp was great and felt like home. He said the weekend was “really good” and a mental and physical challenge.
“It was really intense,” Henderson said. “It was a very big jump from high school, so it’s something I’ve got to get used to … but it was all good at the end.”
Hocking said players will be expected to continue to prepare between now and July, when main camp rolls around.
“They’ve got to get back in the gym and they’ve got to keep grinding. It’s an everyday process,” he said.