The V.I. Raiders are returning home happy after starting football season with a road win against a good team.
The Raiders defeated the Langley Rams 20-13 in the B.C. Football Conference season opener on Saturday at McLeod Athletic Park.
V.I. was able to protect a one-score lead late, as Langley had two chances for game-tying scoring drives in the final minutes but was denied.
“Our guys just played outstanding today, all three phases played real well,” said Doug Hocking, Raiders coach. “We were very aggressive and our intensity level was up and I couldn’t be more proud of my football team right now.”
Shawn Arabsky snagged a highlight-reel interception at the Raiders’ 11-yard line with just over a minute left, and although the Rams got another offensive series, the Raiders’ defence made two key sacks, took over on downs and claimed the win.
V.I. had to punt from its own endzone twice in crunch time and trust its defence to hold.
“Defence played outstanding all day…” Hocking said. “We wanted to make Langley work for everything that they were going to get today and especially at the end of the game, we felt that we could stop them both times, so we didn’t mind kicking from our goal line there and it worked out for us.”
The Raiders’ offence made enough plays to keep the team in front. Taylor Becker scored Nanaimo’s only touchdown, a 13-yard reception from Jake Laberge, in the first quarter. James Parker kicked three field goals and the Rams conceded two safeties.
Though V.I. had just one touchdown, the pass game and the run game both shone in stretches. Hocking said tailback Rhett Williams and the offensive line initiated contact.
“I really liked the way we ran the ball at times today and I believe the O line really came together and played a good, solid game. They were aggressive today and played with a chip on their shoulder which I was real happy with.”
Hocking said his takeaway from the season opener was that the win was a team effort among coaches and players.
“We’ll take this win, we’ll build off it and it’s going to give us a lot of confidence,” he said.
Laberge was 14-for-27 passing for 224 yards, one TD and one INT. Williams gained 66 yards on 15 carries and Trevor Pelland made three catches for 56 yards. The Raiders had 299 yards of total offence compared with 229 for the Rams.
Defensively, Quinton Bowles had two sacks, Brody Taylor made five tackles and Nathan Mayers and Alex Eberling made four each.
Raiders defensive halfback and punt returner Josh Paisley suffered an arm injury and was taken to hospital; the team doesn’t yet know the severity.
GAME ON … The Raiders play the Westshore Rebels this Saturday (Aug. 5) at 2 p.m. at Caledonia Park. For ticket information, visit www.viraiders.ca.