The V.I. Raiders were a young team last year. At spring camp this year, guys will be expected to play like veterans.
Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Raiders junior football team will hold spring camp Friday through Sunday (May 5-7) at Merle Logan Field.
Doug Hocking, Raiders coach, said the team feels really good about the group of players gathering this weekend.
“We feel we have 90 kids that are high-end football players that can play at this level, which is going to make not only a really competitive spring camp, but it’s going to make everybody better,” he said.
The numbers at spring camp will be down from recent years, and that’s by design.
“We’re going to get a real good look, lots of reps for a lot of the kids, which is huge,” said Glenn Cook, Raiders general manager. “So we can really sit down after this and have a real good chin wag about who we’re keeping and who we’re not.”
The Raiders think they can create the right mix in 2017. After missing the B.C. final by the narrowest of margins last fall, returning guys want to “prove a point and get things set straight,” said Hocking. And the Raiders intend to bolster that foundation with attributes they feel they need.
“We focused on bringing in some more veteran guys, the 20- and 21-year-old kids that have played a few years of football, maybe a couple years of CIS, to get them in here and raise the experience and add to our leadership with this football team,” the coach said.
Spring camp will include some intriguing names. Quarterback Jamie Ybarra, a former Raiders starter, will come to complement and compete with returning starter Jake Laberge. Former Barsby Bulldogs running back Dejon Lynch, defensive back Shawn Arabsky and linebacker Parker Bowles are all confirmed for this week’s camp. There are several other exciting newcomers including receiver Josh Tipton.
“If we get them to commit to this football team – and we fully expect them to be a part of it – then these are huge adds for us,” Hocking said. “As much as we’re recruiting these kids, they’re not committed to coming to play for us. On the other side of it, they’re recruiting us, too, and seeing what we’re about.”
Hocking said the Raiders plan to keep things “very simple, very vanilla” this weekend so coaches can judge players on their athletic ability. The format of spring camp will be much the same as past years, he said, with the greatest change coming from the coaching. Cook said the attitude will be different.
“A lot more aggressive. A lot more kids wanting to go through a wall for their coach,” he said.
The Raiders have officially promoted Karim Maher to defensive coordinator and assistant head coach and have also announced Colin Pippy as the new offensive coordinator. There will be 20 guest coaches helping out this weekend, including Andrew Harris of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a Raiders alumnus.
GAME ON … Spring camp culminates Sunday with an intrasquad game at 1:30 p.m. at Merle Logan Field.