Story and Photos by Erich Eichhorn – (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Vancouver Island Raiders went into Canadian West Junior Football final Saturday with a 45 game unbeaten home record in the BCFC, amassing a 551-83 total points differential, and looking to extend their winning ways and set sail for a trip back east for a chance at the Canadian Bowl final.If you were to look at the stats you might think that that would almost be a sure thing, except the stats are missing one thing. Their opponent. The 7-1 Saskatoon Hilltops, winners of the very strong Prairie Conference, and the defending national champions.
With a reported almost 2000 tickets sold, fans packed the Raiders Caledonia home field, the game began with all the bravado expected of 2 winning teams. From the opening whistle it was apparent Hilltops game plan, as they would rely on a ground game. RB Regan Schuler would open the game touching the ball 7 times on the opening drive and score the games 1st touchdown at the 8:36 mark of the 1st. Regan would finish the day with 35 carries for 152 yds. , 3 touchdowns, and was names the Offensive Player of the game. Hilltops Donavan Dale and Zach Schmidt would also take Defensive Player and Special Teams Player honors respectively. The Raiders would reply back when #31 Jorden Botel would break plane for a touchdown after QB Yantz would scramble to set him up from the 10 yd. line. Raider Kicker Mark Mueller would add 2 field goals to go up 13-7 in second, but Hilltop would not be denied as Hilltops Schuler would carry the ball in from the 5 yd. line for his second major of the game with only 23 sec left in the half.
QB Jordan Yantz, taking back the lead, would throw a 36 yd guided missile over the left shoulder of Raiders receiver #88 Andrew Smith, playing in his last game in his Raider career, for the touchdown. That lead was short lived as Hilltops chucker charged his team downfield from deep in his own territory and find John Trumpy on a 16 yd passing play. Raiders would start to appear rattled, giving up back-to-back yardage losses and offering the Hilltops position at the Raiders 42 yd line. Hilltop field general Chase Bradshaw would take advantage, 3 plays later, finding John Trumpy for the completion in the end zone. Both teams would hold ground, trading field goals until Raiders Jordan Botel would open up the muddied field and run for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 31-26 with 7:25 remaining in the game. QB Yantz would take the ball himself for the 2-point conversion to bring the Raiders within a field goal. Raiders would get one more chance to break even or win the game, but with 2:50 remaining, the Raiders would concede a 17 yd loss, and then a Hilltop sack on Yantz. Hilltop would make the win definitive, marching the ball down field with 1:27 remaining and score the games last touchdown, and dashing the Raider Nation’s hopes to prolong their year.
Final Score – Hilltop 38 Raiders 28