Story and images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
July 25, 2015 Naniamo, BC (ISN) – The Vancouver Island Raiders didn’t take long to avenge last year’s playoff loss to the 2014 British Columbia Football Conference champion Langley Rams, as they defeated the mainland team 22-14 in their game one, home opener.
Raider’s QB Liam O’Brien tries to shrug off two Rams tacklers during game one tilt at Caledonia Park in Naniamo – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
In come from behind fashion, the 2015 edition of the Raiders, led by new Head Coach Jerome Erdman, defended their home field with unwavering confidence against a talent-riddled Rams team, perhaps changing some fans minds about calling this a rebuilding year rather a playoff year despite the many fresh faces introduced the “Raider Nation” for the first season.
With “high-fives” and on-field celebration the likes of a playoff game win, it was evident this game meant something to the Raiders.
Mattias Bueno celebrates with a jump and a pump of the fist as his team takes the upper hand in the game against the Rams – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
With the win, Erdman would explain how important the win was for his team. “ It’s (the win) vital for us. Now that they now that all their hard work pays off, and get a result like this, they really start to believe and they buy in. I’m very proud of them. They beat a very good football team, and I don’t now how many people thought we would, but they (the players) did”.
It was apparent from the first snap that both teams would need to exercise out game one jitters, as teams would look to find a game rhythm. The Rams would rely on QB Devoun Hallums, going head to head Raider’s second year pivot QB Liam O’Brien.
Liam O’Brien will be looking to improve on last years league leading passing yards – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Also a second year man, Hallums, was competing with last year’s starting Rams QB Dylan Tucker during this season’s camp, when an injury to Tucker would give Hallums the 2015 season nod.
Devoun Hallums looks for RB Nathun Lund off the line of scrimmage – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Raider’s O’Brien, starting nine games last year for the Raiders, led the B.C. Football Conference with 2,558 yards passing and tied the league lead with eighteen touchdowns.
The Raider’s offense would find their scoring touch first, late in the opening quarter when O’Brien would find WR Dustin Rodriguez in the end zone. The Rams would show promise but would trail 7-0 until late in the half.
Raiders WR Arthur Fabbro slips out of the tackle of a Rams defender – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Rams would answer with two touchdowns in five minutes, late in the half, to go up 14-7 on strikes to Jordan Travesey and Nathan Lund. The Rams, pinned in their own zone in the dying seconds of the half would concede a Raider’s safety to take a 14-9 lead into the locker room.
The Raider’s defensive line would turn up the pressure the Rams in the second half, holding the BCFC Cullen Cup champions scoreless the rest of the game in an impressive display of resiliency and focus.
Ram’s Nathan Lund is surrounded by a Raiders defense . The Raiders defense was instrumental in holding back the 2014 Cullen Cup champs – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
When asked about the turning point in the game, Coach Erdman would comment, “Our defense started getting couple of turnovers, a fumble, a couple of picks (interceptions) later in the game, which led to the go ahead score, so I thought that was very, very big for us. The Rams came down, and we stopped them on a couple of third downs, which was huge. We didn’t panic. I’m proud of how our defense played.”
V.I. Raider Dexter Shea would mark the turning point in the game early in the fourth quarter with the recovered Rams fumble deep in the Rams end.
Rams receiver Bobby Pospischil attracts Raiders attention as he tucks in the ball for plus yards – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Raiders would take the lead with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on an 8 yd. run by QB Liam O’Brien, on the fumbled ball, to go up 19-14, after a 35 yd. Raider’s field goal with 25 seconds would pull them within two points. The Raiders would add an 11 yd. field goal with 2 minutes remaining to seeming give the home side an all but certain win.
The Rams would be given a rare gift late when the Raiders, loosing possession on downs three time inside the 2 minute warning, would give the Rams squandered opportunities to tie the game. The Rams, with a chance to tie the game but not able to take advantage, would give the Raiders a 22-14, season opening win.
QB O’Brien would finish 18-32 passing for 208 yards, one running touchdown and one passing touchdown, while his counterpart in Hallums would go 19-36 on 284 yards passing.
Raiders QB O’Brien looks for a lane to the end zone – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
With the Raider’s moniker appearing to ring clear “Work Ethic, Work Harder”, Coach Eardman has no illusions of what message this win sends to other teams in the league. “ I think this game may raise an eyebrow or two, we’ve got to work even harder now. Teams are going to realize we’re not a surprise anymore, so they won’t be caught off guard.”
Raider’s DL Tyler Harvey looks to engergize the Raider’s Nation in the stands – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The V.I. Raiders travel to Langford next Saturday, August 1st, to play the Westshore Rebels. The Rebels dropped their opening game to the Okanagan Sun in Kelowna to go 0-1 to start the season.