The semifinal had a big-game feel, it was back and forth, and the V.I. Raiders were a little bit better.
The Raiders defeated the Langley Rams 28-27 on Saturday at Caledonia Park in B.C. Football Conference playoff action.
The game came down to a final Rams drive with a minute and a half left, but the Raiders’ defence held firm and ran out the clock on the visitors.
Dexter Shea, V.I. linebacker, said his team played together and played tough.
“We stick together, ups and downs, no matter how the game’s going, we know the game’s not over till it’s over,” he said.
Jerome Erdman, Raiders coach, said he was very proud of his young team.
“This is their first experience for a lot of them in this type of atmosphere. It was a great effort…” he said. “They never gave up. They kept battling. We were in adverse situations a couple times, but they kept believing, kept working hard like we’ve preached on them from Day 1 and good things are going to happen when you do that.”
Dustin Rodriguez, Raiders receiver, said his team wasn’t fazed when it found itself trailing.
“We knew it wasn’t over at all,” he said. “We’ve been playing in games like this all year, so we just knew that we had to keep our head up and stick with it.”
The Raiders’ offence was able to complete some long passes for scores. Quarterback Liam O’Brien connected with Rodriguez on touchdown passes of 57 and 46 yards, and with Arthur Fabbro on a 26-yard TD pass.
Rodriguez said the Raiders’ offensive line gave O’Brien a lot of time to throw, and said it allowed receivers time to find space in the Rams’ defence.
“They run a lot of zone, so if you keep them out in coverage for long enough, a lot of holes will open up, and they did,” he said.
The Rams were able to sustain some drives with a run game based around surprise starting quarterback Bobby Pospischil, but weren’t as effective through the air and the Raiders came up with three interceptions.
“All year we’ve been kind of a bend-but-don’t-break defence,” said Erdman. “Make them earn it and then hopefully over a long stretch, they’ll make a mistake.”
The Raiders came out and scored on their first drive of the football game on an 11-yard run by O’Brien, then the Rams scored 17 unanswered points on a field goal and two TD runs by Pospischil.
A Rodriguez TD closed the gap, then a Cole Virtanen interception set up Fabbro’s score and put the home team up 21-17 at halftime.
The Rams re-took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a touchdown catch by Seye Akinsanmi, but the Raiders responded a minute later with a Rodriguez major. The Rams closed to within one point on a field goal with four minutes left, but there was no further scoring.
Shea said winning that kind of battle game is huge for his team.
“It pulls us closer. It makes us realize that it’s that close. It could go away just like that,” he said. “So we want to hold on to it as long as we can. We love this game and we’re going to keep trying to play it as long as we can.”
O’Brien finished the game 13-for-22 for 271 yards, three TDs and an INT. Rodriguez had six catches for 121 yards.
Defensively, Virtanen led his team with eight tackles and a pick and Shea had six tackles. Adam McDonald intercepted a pass in the endzone, Travis Novak had an interception and a sack and Kaelan Botel also had a sack.
For Langley, Pospischil was 8-for-16 for 124 passing yards to go along with 133 rush yards.
GAME ON … The Raiders will play either the Okanagan Sun or the Kamloops Broncos in the BCFC championship game next weekend; scheduling is yet to be determined.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) October 17, 2015