Story and images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
August 8,2015 Nanaimo, BC (ISN) – The 2015 edition of the Vancouver Island Raiders learned first hand how difficult it can be to stay on top of the standings in the British Columbia Football Conference, loosing to the undefeated Okanagan Sun 27-3 at Caledonia Park in Nanaimo Saturday afternoon.
Sun’s Keith Zyla pays for carrying the ball courtesy of a crushing tackle by a VI Raider to knock him out of bounds – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Last weekend the Raiders eked out a 23-21, last minute win over the Westshore Rebels to keep pace with the Sun in the absence of Raider’s All Canadian QB Liam O’Brien, who suffered a “upper body” injury late during their game one win over the Langley Rams.
O’Brien was back at the helm for Saturday’s pivotal game against the Sun’s QB Cam Bedore. O’Brien, looking to shake the two weeks of rust out of his throwing arm, appeared to struggle to find a rhythm and connect with his receivers most of the game against a disciplined Sun defense. O’Brien would finish the game passing 14-25, and a total of 93 yards.
O’Brien was a game time decision for head coach Jerome Erdman. Looking hesitant in the pocket, the Raiders field general would be harassed early and often by the Sun’s defensive line. Unable to escape the Sun’s relentless defensive pursuit, O’Brien would be sacked, uncharacteristically, a total of 10 times in the game.
Raider’s QB Liam O’Brien feels the heat from Sun’s Ryley Butler. O’Brien would be sacked 10 times in the 27-3 loss – Erich Eichorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Perhaps returning too early the big game, Erdman would have this to say about his “go-to” quarterbacks return. “ I don’t think he (O’Brien) was as sharp as he has been in the past, but a lot of credit goes to Okanagan and what they were doing defensively. It wasn’t just Liam. He’s been out a couple of weeks, and he was rusty, but he’ll be OK.”
Both sides struggling on the offensive side of the ball in a game, that perhaps, most thought would be a high scoring, shoot out affair, quickly became a kicking game as heavy rain squalls would keep a slick ball on the ground for the majority of the afternoon. After conceding a safety to open the game, the Raiders would start the game’s field goal fest, regaining points lost to take their only lead of the game half way through the first frame on a field goal Mattais Bueno to make it a 3-2 score.
Raider #5 Arthur Fabbro and company take down Jamie Turek – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Raider Coach Erdman’s high profile defensive acquisition last week of the B.C. 2014 AAA linebacker of the year winner, Isaiah Stevens, may have paid some dividends in shutting down the Sun’s high-powered offense, holding the Okanagan team to just 139 yards offense in the first half. The Raiders now boast at having both the 2014 BC ‘AA linebacker of the year in Cole Virtanen, as well as ‘AAA Stevens in their stable to shore up their defense.
Raiders defensive crew #20 Nigel Henry and #1 Dexter Shea pull down a scrambling Sun QB Cam Bedore – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca )
A resilient Raider defensive line would keep the Sun’s Bedore (11-21) in check most of the game, turning aside the Sun’s offense in the red zone repeatedly when momentum would find themselves on the short end of the field. The Suns, opportunistically, would entrust the leg of field goal kicker Tom Huber to give the Suns points when needed, and would enjoy a 12-3 lead at the half. Huber would end up going 5-6 on field goals for a total of 148 yards. The Suns would score the only touchdown in the game mid-way through the third quarter to go up 19-3 on a two-yard hand off to Kyle Patchell from Bedore, much to the jeers of a wet and disapproving Raider Nation.
Sun’s Cam Bedore looks to hand off the ball to his RB. Bedore would go 17-30 in pass completions under rainy skies at Caledonia Park – Erich Eichhorn (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Deceptively, with only one touchdown to show for it, Okanagan would finish the game with an impressive 396 yards net offense, bettering the Raiders 122 yards in hard fought gains, but highlighting the job the Raiders defensive core did when it counted the most on the scoreboard.
The Okanagan Sun would add two more field goals and a safety to secure the win; taking away #1 BCFC ranking with a 27-3 win.
In the loss, coach Erdman had no illusions of the work his team needs to climb back on top. “ We have a long way to go. It was a learning experience for us, and we will learn from it and come out better next week. Offensively we didn’t do a good enough job. We’re a young team, and have to learn from it and move forward.”
Raiders Taylor Flavel gets some rare running room to advance the sticks against the Okanagan Sun – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Playing another hot interior team, the Kamloops Broncos next weekend at Caledonia Park, the Raiders and coach Erdman are wary of the effort required. “ Kamloops is another good football team that is on the rise. They have a great quarterback and love to put it up (pass the ball). We’re going to have to come with the same effort that we did today, hopefully with a different result.”