Football fans can expect more close games this season.
The B.C. Football Conference announced its 2012 regular-season schedule and the league has made significant changes. The BCFC decided on an unbalanced schedule that will see the top teams duke it out with top teams.
The Raiders will play the Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams three times each, the Westshore Rebels twice and the Chilliwack Huskers and Kamloops Broncos just once apiece.
“It’s great,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach. “For us, every week’s going to be a little more intense than it was in the past.”
Home dates at Caledonia Park in 2012 include two meetings with the Sun. The expectation is that the Raiders will reciprocate in 2013 with two trips to Kelowna.
The Sun like the schedule change, too.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Jay Christensen, Sun general manager. “We’re in a developmental league and we want to play as many games against quality opponents as we can.”
Blokker said the BCFC is trying to appease the lower-end teams, but wonders if the schedule will have the desired effect.
“All it’s going to do is make the Sun stronger and the Raiders stronger and the Rams stronger,” he said. “I don’t see how that is really going to help the parity in the league.”
The other problem with the unbalanced schedule is its effect on statistics.
Blokker pointed out that the Rebels’ players, for example, will get to play six regular-season games against the Huskers and Broncos. The Raiders won’t have nearly as many opportunities to pad their stats, so to speak.
“That’s not the end-all of why the Raiders play,” Blokker said. “We want to play to win a championship and the way I view it, at the very end, this should make us a better football team. To be inspired every week because of the competition you’re playing against, that, to me, is where the fun and the passion and everything is built.”
The Raiders open the season in Victoria Aug. 4 and play their home opener Aug. 11 versus Langley.
Receiver catches top award
In other Raiders news, receiver Mike Schaper was announced this month as the winner of the Wally Buono Award as Canada’s top junior football player.
Schaper was the Raiders’ fourth-leading receiver with 591 yards and eight touchdowns, but he compiled those stats while commanding extra defensive attention following a record-setting year in 2011.
The Wally Buono Award takes into account not only play on the field, but also leadership off the field.
“As committed as Mike was to bringing in the ball, I saw the same focus and commitment to his teammates and his community,” said Buono in a press release. “A worthy recipient and tremendous character in a young man.”
Schaper is the second Raiders standout to win the award as Andrew Harris won in 2009. To win the same award, said Schaper, “is an exceptional honour for me as a player and as a person.”
-with files from Warren Henderson