The V.I. Raiders feel like this year’s signing day was a victory.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team inked its rookie recruits on Monday, an important step toward the 2015 season.
Headlining this year’s recruiting class is defensive back Cole Virtanen of John Barsby Secondary School, MVP of the AA varsity team’s Subway Bowl championship.
Jerome Erdman, Raiders coach, said he’s happy with how recruiting went.
“We’ve done a really, really good job of getting the really good local talent, so I’m very, very pleased with that,” he said. “And we’ve got some great kids from Winnipeg, we’ve got some great kids from Regina and even up north so we’re very, very happy.”
Virtanen had options to try for a spot at the Canadian university or U.S. college level, but decided the Raiders are the best fit for now.
“I’m just really interested in staying at home and playing with a good football team,” Virtanen said. “They have all the same ideals as we did at Barsby. Winning’s the No. 1 attitude around here. So I just want to keep that going.”
Virtanen said the first day of junior football spring camp was an eye-opener, but he will work at it to try to make an impact.
“I’m looking to play as much as I can this year, do my part,” he said. “I’m just going to compete for every job I can, whether it’s special teams and on defence, I’m looking to contribute to the team and its efforts to win.”
Other recruits from the Barsby Bulldogs include defensive lineman Matt Hill and linebacker/running back Trentyn Anderson.
“It was just a good fit,” said Hill. “It’s close to home and I want to stay here. I’ve been coming to Raiders games ever since I was 10 years old.”
Anderson said some of the Barsby players talked a lot about where they wanted to play football after high school.
“And most of us chose the Raiders and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun having some of our same guys up here,” Anderson said.
Erdman said Barsby has got a “great program” that higher levels of football are well aware of.
“They’re tough, they’re smart, they’ve got great work ethic. That’s something we pride ourselves on being as Raiders, so it’s a natural transition, we feel.”
The Raiders also signed players from the Ballenas Whalers including cornerback prospect Cobby Stubbins.
“It’s awesome to be around here and a lot of people I know came here,” he said.
He thought he adjusted well to the junior level at spring camp.
“Guys are faster, guys are bigger, but I can deal with that,” he said.
Erdman said the Raiders rookies will all need to prove themselves and earn their playing time.
“There’s a few kids that are coming in that will challenge for a starting position,” the coach said. “I never will tell a rookie coming in that ‘you’re going to start’ because that’s unfair to the veterans that are here and I think that’s the wrong way to recruit.”
Some of the Raiders’ other notable recruits include linebacker Eskindrias Tegegne and defensive backs Adam McDonald, Alex Eberling and Max Baldam of Winnipeg, defensive linemen Parker Smith and Steven Drysdale of Regina and offensive lineman Isaiah Schmaltz of Sexsmith, Alta.
It all adds up to big potential, Virtanen said.
“There’s tons of talent and hard work everywhere,” he said. “You can definitely see it … Everyone has the same mindset. It’s already a family mentality and we haven’t even had a real practice except for spring camp. We’re jelling well already so we’ve got big expectations.”
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) June 2, 2015