Raiders face first-place Rams

V.I. Raiders kicker Matius Bueno tries for a field goal during a game against the Langley Rams earlier this season on the mainland. - ALYSSA O
V.I. Raiders kicker Matius Bueno tries for a field goal during a game against the Langley Rams earlier this season on the mainland.
— image credit: ALYSSA O'DELL/Black Press

The V.I. Raiders have a chance to bounce back from blowout losses.

Nanaimo's Canadian Junior Football League team hosts the Langley Rams on Saturday (Aug. 23) at Caledonia Park.

Langley is undefeated and in first place in the B.C. Football Conference, but V.I. could be competitive against the visitors this weekend. The Raiders believe that a lot of little things are going wrong, which has led to big plays and big scores against them.

"It just seems like a lot of little things that we just need to put back together," said Dylan Chapdelaine, Raiders safety.

An example, said coach Brian Ridgeway, is special teams, where V.I. is "one block away, one missed assignment" from doing some real damage.

Specials were one of the reasons why the Raiders lost to the Rams in the season opener last month on the mainland. V.I. will have to be careful again this week against Langley's John Beckerleg, who already has three kickoff return touchdowns and one punt return TD this season.

The game will also feature two of the league's top quarterbacks, Rams quarterback Dylan Tucker, a former Nanaimo Redmen pivot, is the BCFC's most accurate passer and Raiders QB Liam O'Brien leads the league in yardage.

The Raiders may be lining up against the Rams on Saturday but V.I. feels like it needs to address, first and foremost, its own game. The team worked on tackling and other fundamentals this week, and it also needs to be mentally prepared to play after back-to-back tough losses.

"We've had a lot of adversity – we want to see how we respond," said Ridgeway.

Chapdelaine said the Raiders have to put the Sun games behind them.

"We just have to … focus on us and get us better," he said. "It's a new game. So just forget about last week and come out firing this week because it's going to be 0-0 starting the game."

Ridgeway said despite the team's struggles, he's seeing "huge growth" in his young players week to week.

"We're going to work hard and we're going to do our best…" said Colton Copp, rookie linebacker. "We're going to put our best effort forth and not let anything drag us down."

GAME ON … The Raiders and the Rams kick off Saturday at 4 p.m. at Caledonia Park. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students and will be available at the gate.

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