The V.I. Raiders had a surprise in store in the season opener, as they were able to defeat the defending champs.
The Raiders beat the Langley Rams 22-14 on Saturday at Caledonia Park to start the B.C. Football Conference season. The Rams turned the ball over five times in the second half and Nanaimo outscored Langley 13-0 over those final two quarters to come back and win.
“We wanted to bring that first ‘W’ of the season, especially in front of the home fans,” said Nate Berg, V.I. running back. “Fourth quarter it was go time, all or nothing.”
A turning point came early in the fourth quarter. V.I. linebacker Dexter Shea recovered a fumble and returned it deep into Rams territory, setting up a four-yard touchdown run from V.I. quarterback Liam O’Brien to give the Raiders a five-point lead.
Nanaimo’s defence stood tall down the stretch, as Langley wasn’t able to cross midfield over its last few drives.
“The game will always come down to the fourth quarter,” said Josh Paisley, V.I. defensive back. “Who can keep that drive going all the way through the game?”
Jerome Erdman was able to win his debut as Raiders head coach. He said all aspects of his team’s game were strong, and had to be against the Rams.
“We wanted to just be patient and make them work for it. We felt if we didn’t start … being too aggressive, that they would make a mistake and better them than us,” Erdman said. “[We] really stuck to the game plan and we never made the big, critical mistake and I think we wore them down.”
V.I.’s Dustin Rodriguez opened the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown catch 10 minutes into the game, but in the second quarter, the Rams replied with touchdown catches from Jordan Traversy and Nathan Lund.
V.I.’s Matias Bueno was good on both his field-goal attempts, one from 34 yards and one from 11 yards.
O’Brien finished the game 18-for-32 passing for 208 yards with one passing TD and one rushing TD. He was sacked at least half a dozen times.
Berg had 90 rushing yards and Rodriguez had six catches and 89 receiving yards.
Defensively for the Raiders, Paisley led the way with six solo tackles and two assists and Adam McDonald had four tackles. Alex Eberling and Hudson Schneider had interceptions.
The Raiders celebrated boisterously after the win, and Erdman said he’s proud of the guys.
“When you work them hard and they see a result like this, they really start to believe…” the coach said. “We beat a very good football team and I don’t know if many people thought we would, but [our players] did, and that’s the important part.”
GAME ON … The Raiders visit the Westshore Rebels in Victoria on Saturday (Aug. 1) at 7 p.m. at Langford’s Westhills Stadium.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) July 26, 2015