Sports

V.I. Raiders come out throwing

V.I. Raiders quarterback Liam O
V.I. Raiders quarterback Liam O'Brien and receiver Marshall Cook had good chemistry in the first game of the season.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The V.I. Raiders have a whole football season ahead of them to build team chemistry, but a couple of them already seem to have it.

Quarterback Liam O’Brien and receiver Marshall Cook were highly productive in the team’s 44-36 road loss to the Langley Rams in Week 1.

Cook was the Canadian Junior Football League Offensive Player of the Week, making 14 catches for 208 yards, and O’Brien was 24-for-37 for 306 yards in his junior football debut.

“It looks like it could be a good connection. Hopefully it carries on,” said Jordan Botel, V.I. offensive coordinator.

Cook is a veteran but hasn’t been a go-to guy until now. Brian Ridgeway, Raiders coach, said Cook has shown focus and leadership.

“He’s been a big part of keeping our culture alive in the transition and he’s been working extremely hard getting ready for the season,” Ridgeway said.

The former John Barsby Bulldogs receiver said coaches have made things simple to grasp and said the vets have helped newcomers understand the offence.

Of course Cook likes the idea of an expanded role.

“It’s nice to make those plays, but I’d much rather take the victory than anything,” he said.

The coach said Cook is a “special athlete” who can still take his game to another level.

“He runs great routes – all our receivers do,” said O’Brien.

Meanwhile, said Botel, the Raiders’ quarterback was making good reads in the opener.

“He’s got a good arm and he keeps his eyes downfield,” said the OC. “He has a good sense of when to scramble around.”

O’Brien played quarterback for the Ballenas Whalers in high school, but was asked to switch to tight end at Simon Fraser University. Neither college nor the position were good fits for O’Brien, so joining the V.I. Raiders was a “no-brainer,” he said.

“It’s close to home and it’s a great group of guys,” the QB said.

Many of his teammates on the Raiders hail from Barsby and got the better of O’Brien in Border Battle games.

“I hear about it a little bit,” he said. “It’s cool. In high school it’s such a big rivalry, but once you get to know them, they’re not any different than you are.”

Cook and O’Brien both felt good about the Raiders’ performance and effort in Week 1 and are encouraged moving forward.

“It’s a tough league, but if we play our hardest and play our best out there I think we have a great chance to be at the top of the league,” O’Brien said.

GAME ON … The Raiders visit the Westshore Rebels on Saturday (Aug. 2) at 7 p.m. at Victoria’s Westhills Stadium.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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