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Story and images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)

October 20, 2013, Nanaimo (ISN) The Vancouver Island Raiders advanced to the Jostens Cup Canadian semifinals by defeating the Langley Rams 48-37 in BCFC Championship action Saturday at Calendonia field in Naniamo, BC.

For many dedicated Raider Nation fans, the script may have been already written before the game even started, but to the Langley Rams, it was another chance to prove that last year’s upset Cullen Cup win over the Raiders wasn’t by chance. The Raiders, this year under the adversity of injury, put together an impressive seven game winning streak to reclaim the championship and prove that last year’s short coming was just a blip on the radar in the Raiders storied history.

Linebacker Cole Samson intercepts the Gilbert-Knorren goal line pass to snuff out a Rams comeback – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

After a season ending injury would side line starting Raiders QB Jamie Ybarra, second string Jaeden Marwick, a product of Regina, SK, has quickly filled the shoes left vacant and helped carry the Raiders into the post season for a chance to claim the Canadian championship.

Ariel Fabbro would seal the deal , intercepting the Rams ball and running back for a touchdown – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Both Rams and Raiders would look tentative in the early going, as defensively, teams would look find a rhythm. The after an opening field goal by the Rams, the Raiders quickly started to dominate the play. Marwick would find receiver Dylan Schrot in the endzone for a Raider first major of the game. Raiders would visit the Rams house twice more before the end of the half on a touchdown by Alex Thompson and a touchdown by Dustin Rodriguez that was set up by a 52 yard pass from Marwick to Whitman Tomusiak. The Raiders defense would hold the Rams out of their house through the first half, highlighted by a 3rd down touchdown attempt that would be knocked down in the Raiders endzone with 1:03 remaining, in the half.

QB Jaeden Marwick shows he can do more than just throw stones as he leaps for the ball – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

The Raiders would only allow Langley an uncharacteristic eight points on seven first down completions for 127 net yards offense, as Rams QB Jahlni Gilbert-Knorren would struggle to find his pace. The Raiders defense would find success shutting down the running game of BCFC allstars Nathan Lund and Kyle Albertini, allowing for only 54 yards rushing. Marwick, alumni of Team Saskatchewan, and in his freshman year as a Raider, would throw 13-19 and 184 yards throw the air in the first half, relying on a balance attack against one of the toughest Ram defenses in recent BCFC memory. The Raiders would enjoy a 24-8 lead at the half.

The Raiders secondary would cause all kinds of trouble for the Rams in the first half of the Cullen Cup Championship – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

When asked about his elevation to Raider starter and his naming as Cullen Cup Offensive Player of the Game, Marwick would comment, ” It’s quite amazing. Definitely a different atmosphere from high school. You can just feel it’s a bigger game, and it means a lot more. It’s awesome. This much pressure makes you play better. I’ve been given the opportunity (to play), and now I just have to take advantage of it.”

QB Marwick would throw for 196 yards on the afternoon to lead the VI Raiders to the Cullen Cup – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

The Rams, after a sluggish start, would start in the second half to find the touch that put themselves into the Cullen Cup. Gilbert-Knorren would string together an impressive offensive performance in the second half with 463 net yards, 340 of those yards through the air. The Rams, taking advantage of a sagging Raiders defense would start to climb out of the hole with large gains down field that had some Raiders faithful sitting back in their seats. Marwick would reply with Kutra for 2 touchdown receptions, but Gilbert-Knorren would be better than equal to the task, orchestrating three touchdown strikes, including his own 38 yard sprint to the endzone, over the next 18 minutes to pull the Langley squad to within nine points of tying the game with thirteen minutes remaining and a 38-29 score.

Raiders Alex Thompson would come down with the tipped ball in the end zone for the touchdown – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

A resilient Raider defense would awaken at just the right time as, with the Rams knocking once again at the Raider’s door, Raider Cole Samson would intercept a Gilbert-Knorren goal line touchdown pass to extinguish any further Langley momentum. The Raiders Ariel Fabbro would seal the Rams fate with an interception, the Raiders fourth on the afternoon, and run it down field for the major and a Cullen Cup Championship. The Rams, with “give up” not in their vocabulary, would add a last minute touchdown to Jacob Carvery.

Rams reciever Spencer Farbatuk couldn’t pull down this Gilbert-Knorren pass – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

Coach Blokker would be asked if a statement was made with today’s win and winning seven games in a row, he would reply,” It’s a statement these young men decided to make. Sometimes the coaches get a lot of the credit, but it comes down to these guys executing, making plays and having desire. The one thing about this club is that they are resilient. It does not matter what stage, playing good or bad, they keep playing, they keep working, they keep believing. To show it again in a championship game, when a lot of teams would unravel, we stuck together to make some huge plays and shut the door.”

Rams star running back Nathan Lund splits the Raiders defense . Lund would be contained to just 24 yards rushing on the afternoon – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

The Raiders, winning 48-37, claim their seventh Cullen Cup since 2006 and will represent B.C. next week in Windsor, Ontario for the Canadian semi-finals.

#12 Tomusiak celebrates fellow receiver Alex Kutra’s first of two touchdowns of the afternoon – Erich Eichhorn image ( )

#34 Aston Galloway would add 108 yards total offense for his Raiders team on way to the Cullen Cup. Show here breaking  away from a Ram defender – Erich Eichhorn image ( )