Sports

V.I. Raiders kick off against tough Rams

The V.I. Raiders are about to find out if they’re ready for some football.

Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team begins the 2014 regular season this Saturday (July 26) with a road game against the Langley Rams.

It’s been an abbreviated pre-season, as the Raiders only just wrapped main camp at Port Alberni on Monday. It was a productive few days, said coach Brian Ridgeway.

“The boys came ready to work and they were focused all the way through and it was great to see,” he said. “[We] found out about our personnel and where we’re going to get the most talent on the field at once.”

Ridgeway said it will be a young Raiders team that steps onto the field to start the B.C. Football Conference campaign.

“We do have some veterans and they’re quite outstanding, but our young talent looks real good,” the coach said. “They’re going to be able to compete right off the bat.”

The offence will be led by new quarterback Liam O’Brien of Parksville, who has earned the starter’s job.

“[He’s] a big, strong quarterback, fairly decent mobility and a good arm,” said Ridgeway.

Execution will be important on offence, said the coach, since it will be a new quarterback and new offensive line trying to jell with veteran running backs and receivers.

The Rams go into the season as favourites, but at this time of year, the Raiders can’t overly concern themselves with the competition.

“Really, we just focus on ourselves, make sure we’re running our plays exactly how we want them, defence is executing properly, and there’ll be game-day adjustments,” Ridgeway said.

In a short junior football season, every game is important. The Raiders want to get better and better and peak at playoff time, but at the same time they have to ensure they qualify.

“Winning opening day does a lot to get you into playoffs,” Ridgeway said. “It’s only one game, but it’s an important moment. It starts you off on the right foot.”

It will be his first game as head coach and he’s excited to how his group will play.

“It’ll be interesting to see on game day who can bring the contact,” Ridgeway said.

GAME ON … Saturday’s kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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