All along, the V.I. Raiders wanted to be playing at this time of year. Fall football. Playoff football. The time of year when their home field, Caledonia Park, could very well resemble a mud puddle.
“I like when it’s mucky and rainy. That’s fun for me,” said Quinton Bowles, V.I. defensive end.
The Raiders have home-field advantage this Saturday (Oct. 17), when they face the Langley Rams in the B.C. Football Conference semifinals. Nanaimo beat Langley twice in the regular season and is anxious for the opportunity to do it again.
“I think it’s going to be a heck of a game,” said Jerome Erdman, V.I. coach. “Both our games have been very close. We match up well against each other and it’s going to be a good one.”
The Raiders will try to continue to do what worked against the Rams in the regular season. Offensively, that means being opportunistic, but the Raiders would also like to be better with their run game. It could be of critical importance Saturday.
“Games on mucky fields are won in the trenches, so both lines are going to have to play very well,” Erdman said.
Defensively, V.I. will look to shut down Langley’s rushing attack and prevent the Rams from completing long passes, especially in second-and-long situations.
“We have to play disciplined and relentless,” Bowles said. “That’s what our motto is, is being very disciplined, no mental mistakes, and just going out and being relentless and give them nothing.”
Erdman said the coaching staff has worked players hard all season, but the guys recognize that it’s all been leading to this.
“I really have a sense that they know, ‘hey, that’s why we worked for it,’” he said. “You’ve got to have the right frame of mind, you’ve got to be hungry, you’ve got to have your eyes on the prize.”
Bowles said it’s 100 per cent true that intangibles like desire and determination win the day.
“This is where heart matters,” he said. “This is where the true grind is, and where men become men and boys stay boys.”
Raiders win major awards
The playoff outcome is yet to be determined, but a couple of local V.I. Raiders players were big winners already this week.
Defensive back Cole Virtanen and linebacker Dexter Shea won major B.C. Football Conference awards. Virtanen is the league’s Rookie of the Year, while Shea was named Outstanding Linebacker.
Virtanen made 31 tackles in his freshman season and came up with five interceptions. Shea made 38 tackles and recovered two fumbles.
Kamloops Broncos receiver Derek Yachison was selected as the league’s Outstanding Offensive Player, while Okanagan Sun defensive back Brennan Van Nistelrooy was named Outstanding Defensive Player.
GAME ON … The Raiders and Rams play Saturday (Oct. 17) at 1 p.m. at Caledonia Park.