The V.I. Raiders’ comeback win against the Okanagan Sun on Saturday was a team victory, but there was one player who gave a few extra downs’ worth of effort.
Offensive lineman Jordan Kuziek was called into duty on the defensive line late in the game as the Raiders have suffered a handful of injuries at the position.
The rookie had told coaches since the beginning of the year he’d like to play on the defensive side of the ball, too, but it certainly hadn’t been part of the game plan leading up to Saturday’s contest.
“Oh no,” he said. “It was one of those, ‘Kuuz, just get in there now at D end and keep contain.’ I was like, ‘OK coach.’ Going in there under pressure because we were up by a point or two, I was obviously nervous. I’m a rookie, I don’t want to mess up.”
On the very first snap, Kuziek beat his man and made a tackle for a loss.
“That was a huge energy boost for our team all the way around and he brought it,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, V.I. coach.
Kuziek could be pressed into spot duty again this coming week as the Raiders still don’t expect to be at full strength on the defensive line, but rush end Ash Gayat is listed as possible to return to action.
Yantz makes most of milestone
Raiders quarterback Jordan Yantz keeps putting his records further and further out of reach.
After setting a new Canadian Junior Football League career passing yards record earlier this season, Yantz made it past 10,000 in Saturday’s win at Caledonia Park, finding receiver Matt Sawyer in stride.
The achievement was lauded over the public address system and Yantz, in the middle of a drive, briefly acknowledged it.
“It definitely put a big smile on my face when I heard the announcers get into it and fans got into it there for me, too,” he said.
It didn’t affect the QB’s focus – his next throw was a 27-yard passing touchdown to Mike Schaper.
The Raiders’ pivot now has 2,611 passing yards this season with two games left on the schedule. He needs another 303 yards for a personal best, another 377 yards for a B.C. Football Conference record and another 419 yards to set a new CJFL record.
Mueller kicks his way into scoring lead
V.I. kicker Mark Mueller was the hero in Saturday’s win against Okanagan, hitting a 39-yard field goal with less than two and a half minutes left. That field goal didn’t just win the game – it also vaulted Mueller into the BCFC scoring lead this season with 80 points.
“Mark Mueller just dialled it up today,” said Blokker, and even Sun coach Gavin Lake suggested that Nanaimo’s fifth-year kicker was a difference-maker in the game.
Mueller was three-for-three on field goals before his final attempt with 1:45 left was blocked.
“If that wouldn’t have got blocked there, that would have went right through, too,” said Blokker.
Mueller was selected as the BCFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.
Westshore Rebels running back Greg Morris is second in BCFC scoring with 78 points and Langley Rams receiver Malcolm Williams has 76.
Raiders, Rams play high-stakes game
The teams play Saturday (Oct. 6) in a 4 p.m. kickoff at McLeod Park in the Fraser Valley. The Raiders (7-0-1) can clinch first place in the BCFC with a win over the Rams (6-1-1).
“We’re all excited,” said Kuziek. “We love those fights and we’re going to go out there 110 per cent and just get it done.”
Please look for a game preview in Thursday’s print issue of the News Bulletin or check back that day at www.nanaimobulletin.com/sports.