V.I.’s air attack back on track

Rookie quarterback Jamie Ybarra finding receivers, putting up points for Nanaimo's first-placed V.I. Raiders.

V.I. Raiders quarterback Jamie Ybarra breaks the huddle at practice Tuesday at Comox Field. Ybarra set a B.C. Football Conference record for completion percentage in a game

V.I. Raiders quarterback Jamie Ybarra breaks the huddle at practice Tuesday at Comox Field. Ybarra set a B.C. Football Conference record for completion percentage in a game

The V.I. Raiders were already winning football games, scoring touchdowns and ascending the standings. Then they added a passing attack to their arsenal.

Nanaimo is on a five-game win streak, beating every B.C. Football Conference opponent and averaging 47 points per game over that span. That’s a lot of touchdowns, and a lot of different guys are scoring them. But all that offence right now is pivoting around quarterback Jamie Ybarra.

The rookie wasn’t expected to be the Raiders’ starting QB this season, and he wasn’t, until the mid-season bye week. Since then, he’s helped the Raiders beat their three biggest rivals. He’s thrown back-to-back 300-yard games and on Saturday he set a completion percentage record, going 17-for-20 in a win in Victoria.

The BCFC Offensive Player of the Week praised his pass protection and his receivers for his performance.

“It’s kind of solidifying. It makes you believe in the offence and the people around you,” Ybarra said. “Which helps when you’re in an intense game and you don’t want to worry about what everyone else is doing, you just know they’re going to do it.”

Raiders coach Matthew (Snoop) Blokker said the QB is playing and competing well, making good reads and putting the ball in the receivers’ hands.

It’s led to some big plays and some big wins, which is exciting for the Winnipeg high school football product.

“When I came here I wanted to make sure that I was an impact player on the team,” Ybarra said. “And now that I’m getting the chance to do that, I’m just taking advantage of everything I possibly can and not letting up.”

He first heard about the Raiders from alum Andrew Harris while the two were working out at a gym in Winnipeg. Ybarra was already dreaming big by that time – his dad pitched in the major leagues and his stepdad played in the CFL – and the Raiders’ spring camp sold him on Nanaimo.

“There was just no atmosphere that really compared to the one here,” he said. “I’m glad. I made the right decision.”

And for now, the Raiders seem to have made a decision on their QB. But Blokker said with Week 1 starter Jahmari Bennett healthy again and Jaeden Marwick also in the mix, the Raiders will go game-by-game.

“We want to keep that competition alive. It’s driving all the guys to play well,” said the coach. “When the rest of your team sees the competition at quarterback and it’s honest and the best guy’s getting the chance to play, then you can follow your leader and I think that’s what we’re doing.”

GAME ON … The Raiders play the Langley Rams this Saturday (Sept. 28) at McLeod Athletic Park in the Fraser Valley. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. For a preview, check back at www.nanaimobulletin.com/sports on Friday morning.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com