Maybe the V.I. Raiders’ 34-32 win over the Langley Rams on Saturday shouldn’t have come down to a last-second field goal. But the Raiders will sure take it.
“What a huge win and what a way to clinch first place,” said Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, Raiders coach.
After V.I. receiver Matt Sawyer caught his second touchdown pass of the game to put his team up 31-18 at the three-minute warning, some Rams fans started to filter out of McLeod Park.
But on the ensuing kickoff, the Raiders’ Mark Mueller booted the football with the side of his shoe, somehow spinning it for negative yardage, and the home team suddenly had favourable field position to start a comeback.
“I’ve never seen a kickoff go backwards, so that was a first,” said Blokker.
Mueller had been trying to aim the kickoff away from Rams returner Nick Downey, and simply misfired.
“After that happened I was down on the sidelines, I knew Coach Snoop was pissed off at me,” said Mueller. “It’s not what we needed, especially at that time in the game.”
Two quick Rams touchdowns later and the Raiders were improbably down 32-31 with one minute to try to get the ball from their 33-yard line into field goal range.
V.I. quarterback Jordan Yantz and company covered the distance, as Dustin Rodriguez made a catch and got himself out of bounds at the Rams’ 34-yard line with three seconds left. All he could do was wait and watch – or not.
“It’s nerve-wracking…” Rodriguez said. “I wasn’t even looking, I had to turn around.”
Adding to the drama was the fact that the Raiders’ long snapper Erling Skuggedal and regular holder Kurtis Bardua were both out due to injury. Veteran receiver Mike Schaper was tasked with the long snap and Yantz handled the hold.
“Good on both those guys for coming through in a clutch situation, and of course Mueller for doing what he does,” said Blokker.
The kick looked like it was heading wide, but it nudged past the inside of the near post.
“I think he could have made that from 50-plus,” said the coach. “It was curling the right way.”
The Raiders celebrated more enthusiastically than usual, mobbing Mueller.
“Yes, I put the kick through, but our whole team came together to win the game,” he said.
Yantz close to another record
Raiders quarterback Jordan Yantz has an excellent chance to attain of the most coveted marks in the CJFL record books.
Yantz has thrown for 3,017 yards so far in 2012, passing former Victoria Rebels QB Nate Cote who set a B.C. Football Conference record with 2,988 yards in 2007. Now the Raiders’ pivot is only 14 yards away from surpassing the CJFL record of 3,030 yards set by the Winnipeg Rifles’ Ryan Marsch last season.
Yantz should be able to reach the mark this Saturday (Oct. 13) in front of his home fans at Caledonia Park in the Raiders’ final regular-season game against the Westshore Rebels.
The Raiders don’t want to tax their star quarterback in a game that doesn’t mean much in the standings, but at the same time they want to get Yantz the record, complete an undefeated season, and maintain their unblemished record all-time against the rival Rebels.
“Our thought process is we need to win the game and I think we’ll make more decisions on what we do with the quarterback situation at the end of the first half,” Matt Blokker said.
Veteran leader becoming playmaker
Even as the Raiders are getting healthier at defensive line, veteran Quinton Clarke is continuing to earn his reps.
Mostly a special-teamer in past seasons, the fifth-year junior has become more of a contributor in 2012. He had a fumble recovery and was in on three tackles in Saturday’s win. He’s also made an interception this season and scored a two-point convert.
“The guy’s started for us on offensive line, he’s played O tackle, he’s played D end, he’s played on all the specials,” said Blokker. “He’s a 22-year-old who wants to leave everything on the field. Quinton is one of those guys that is a clear example of what a team player is and that’s all he’s ever been since he’s been here.”
Clarke said he’s willing to line up anywhere on the field, and do whatever the coaches ask him to do.
“Because when they ask you to do something and you answer it, it sends a good message to everyone else that it doesn’t matter what I’m here for, I’m just here to win and help the team win any way they want me to,” he said.
Raiders go up against Rebels
The Raiders play Victoria’s Westshore Rebels on Saturday (Oct. 13) in a 2 p.m. kickoff at Caledonia Park. For a game preview, please check back at www.nanaimobulletin.com/sports on Thursday afternoon.