Week 8 BCFC Preview
4 games on tap this weekend as the BCFC/PFC inter-locking games are finally here.
First a look at how the 2 inter-locking games came to happen. An initial proposal by the CJFL to have a full interlocking schedule with each all 12 teams playing a cross over this weekend was rejected by the majority of the BCFC clubs. BCFC clubs had concerns over the uncertainty of costs and the uncertainty as to if cross over games would be a one season event. With the Ontario Football Conference returning to the CJFL in 2017, would PFC/BCFC interlock continue going forward?
A partial interlock with the Sun and Huskers taking part was agreed upon by those two clubs.
Lets look at the 4 games this weekend
Saturday, Sept 17 @ 1PM
Winnipeg Rifles (1-3) @ Valley Huskers (0-7)
Lifetime head to head: N/A
The Valley Huskers and Winnipeg Rifles are both playing an inter-conference game for the first time as neither team has advanced past their respective conference play-offs previously.
The Huskers have lost 18 straight games, with their last win back in 2014 and will be big underdogs going into this one. They come in to this game having lost their head coach and a game against the previously winless Kamloops Broncos. They likely were counting on a win against Kamloops for some momentum heading into this clash that will have a lot of eyes on it.
For the Rifles, this game is a huge opportunity to get back into the thick of the PFC play-off race. They are tied with the Edmonton Huskies for the 4th and final play-off spot on the prairies so a lot is at stake for the Rifles.
It’s difficult to gauge strengths and weakness of these teams in terms of how they will match up since they play in separate conferences. The Huskers offensive strength is its passing game, although the Broncos had some success limiting it last weekend. No doubt the Rifles have scouted this with an eye to forcing the Huskers to try and beat them with the run.
How bad, at the risk of being blunt is the Huskers run game. With a grand total of 226 yards this season as a group it ranks 7th behind the players at the top of the conference rushing derby. They are just ahead of Raiders QB Jacob Laberge who has 208 yards to his credit.
The Winnipeg franchise has long lamented the decision of many players from the Winnipeg area to venture to BC to play football. Will they be looking to make a statement against the winless Huskers?
The Huskers will be looking for a quicker start then they are accustomed to this season. Through 7 games they have a grand total of one field goal to show in the opening quarter.
Watch interview with Winnipeg Rifles board member Nate Friesen. Nate played for both the Huskers and his hometown Rifles
Players to watch
The Huskers will go as far as the arm of Noah Falconer will take them. But first year receiver Mike West has emerged as the “go to” receiver and a star in the conference as he leads the loop with 597 yards and 6 TDS.
Ritchott sites second in the PFC with 560 yards knows Exhibition Stadium in Chilliwack as he previously suited up with the VI Raiders.
Saturday, September 17 @ 2PM
Westshore Rebels (6-1) @ VI Raiders (3-4)
Lifetime head to head: Raiders lead series 23-1
Previous game this season July 30
Rebels 45 Raiders 22
The VI Raiders have long dominated the Victoria/Westshore Rebels, not having lost to their southern neighbor until this season. The Raiders are a perfect 11-0 at Caledonia but that streak of perfection has never been more fragile than this weekend.
The Nanaimo based Raiders have lost 3 of their last 4 games, while the Rebels are the hottest team in the conference now with 4 straight wins. As we said last week, the Raiders are looking for some level of confidence but after being largely dominated in Langley that will be difficult to muster against a Rebels side that will be oozing confidence.
The Raiders will see a bit of a different look offensively from the Rebels in terms of what they saw in the previous 45-22 Rebels win in Langford. While Jamel Lyles will be back to try and duplicate the monster 270 yard performance on the ground from that game, the quarterback will be different. While the Rebels had platooned the duo of Ashton MacKinnon and Scott Borden on most other games, Borden took every snap against Vancouver Island. The 6’7 MacKinnon presents a definite physical challenge to the Raiders.
The Okanagan Sun proved last week effort that it is possible to at least contain the running duo of Lyles and Campbell to force the passing game to win the game. MacKinnon and company proved they are equal to that challenge.
The porous Rebel secondary proved to be just that again last week and can give an opposing offense opportunities. Fortunately for the Rebels last ranked pass defense (286 YPG), they are facing a Raiders passing attack that is dead last in the conference at 192 YPG clip.
Over the past 11 years the underdog Rebels had many opportunities to upset the league leading VI Raiders and were never able to turn the trick. Can the Raiders fare better in that role?
Players to watch
This 5 year veteran of the Rebels secondary is a native of Nanaimo who joined his hometown team’s rival to attend college post high school.
He has endured 4 years of losing in Nanaimo and will be looking for a big performance in his final game at Caledonia Park.
The Raiders gave up 9 sacks last weekend to the Rams. Hicks and company no doubt took note and will be looking to give Raiders quarterback Jacob Laberge fits.
Pressure like the rookie Laberge faced last weekend in Langley can be overwhelming to a young passer. Laberge is a good athlete who can make plays with his feet as well as his arm and will likely be called on to do more of the same this weekend. That said, the Rebels front 7 isn’t going to present the challenge that the Rams did.
The leader of the Raiders defense will need to have a huge game if his team is going to limit the conference’s best offense.
Saturday, September 17th at 7PM
Langley Rams (5-2) @ Kamloops Broncos (1-6)
Lifetime head to head; Rams lead series 17-1
Previous meeting Langley 51-7
The Kamloops Broncos disappointing season finally had an upside in Saturday’s win over Chilliwack. While that game was no doubt nice, it was necessary over the winless Huskers. Crippling the Rams first place aspirations would turn the Broncos in the right direction heading into 2017.
For the Broncos middling offence, turning the trick against a Rams defense that is getting better as the season goes will be easier said than done. Kamloops had zero success in the first meeting with 130 yards net offense.
It will be interesting to see the battle between the pass defense of the Broncos versus the new look the Rams will bring to Hillside Stadium. The Rams recently signed Tommy Robertson who played last season with the University of Windsor. He had a solid first start Saturday against the Raiders. The Broncos secondary conversely, shut down the Huskers Noah Falconer last week, limiting him to 185 yards and 38.5% completion. In the 4 previous games (2 against the Rebels, 1 versus Langley and VI) Falconer had passed for 1280 yards and 12 touchdowns.
No sign of Nathan Lund last week for the Rams as the running back is still nursing turf toe. He is rumoured to be back this week for the first time since August 13.
Players to watch
Rams QB Tommy Robertson
A no brainer to put the Rams new passer in this slot. He has a talented pair of receivers at his disposal in Khalik Johnson and Seye Akinsanmi. He faces a solid Kamloops secondary.
Arguably the top defensive lineman in the conference he leads the BCFC in sacks with 5.5 on the season after posting a pair against the Raiders.
Angrove leads the conference in interceptions with 7. He and the rest of the Kamloops secondary will be called on to shut down a Rams team that likely will come out throwing on the fast track at Hillside Stadium.
The Broncos simply will not be able to move the ball on the ground against the front 7 of the Rams. If Kamloops is to turn an upset, it will be on the arm of the Broncos pocket passer.
Saturday, September 17th at 7PM
Saskatoon Hilltops (4-2) @ Okanagan Sun (6-1)
Lifetime head to head; Hilltops lead series 5-3
Inter-conference games have long been a goal, if not a dream of the Canadian Junior Football League. A regular season match-up like this between the most storied franchise in the CJFL in the Hilltops and the flagship of the BCFC in the Sun was the natural game to make happen.
The rivalry between these two teams runs deep and while Saskatoon holds the edge in the series that dates back to 1988, they have never won at the Apple Bowl. The Sun defeated the visitors in the western final in 1988 and 1999 as well as the Canadian Bowl in 2000.
The Sun have the largest fan base in the BCFC and the club is expecting a turnout of 2500 plus for this game so the home field advantage of the Apple Bowl should help the home side.
The Hilltops will be able to counter that advantage in coaching experience with the long standing Tom Sargeant at the helm versus the younger Sun staff led by rookie head coach Ben Macauley. With Macauley on scene the coach to coach rivalry that was born last season between Sargeant and former Sun head coach Shane Beatty won’t continue to grow legs unfortunately. The Hilltops coach wasn’t impressed with the Sun’s bench boss comments directed to some of his players during the pre-game warm-ups and made a point enjoying his club’s touchdowns and victory when facing the Sun bench following the game.
In terms of ramifications for both these teams in their respective play-off races it’s massive for both teams. The Hilltops are a game behind the undefeated Calgary Colts after falling to them 36-21 on August 28th at home. Due to the cross over format they don’t see the Colts again before the play-offs. If Saskatoon drops this game the odds of catching the Colts for first place diminish greatly.
As for the Sun, they are deadlocked with the Westshore Rebels atop the BCFC. They hold the tie breaker as they have allowed less points against this season. Win this game and it’s a huge morale booster with two games left on the schedule and the Sun would position themselves to hold onto top stop. Lose this game that they took on in place of the Valley Huskers and they could be travelling come BCFC championship time if they advance that far.
Players to watch
Sun receiver Rashaun Simonise
This former Calgary Dino was a recent cut of the Cincinnati Bengals where he showed well as a free agent signing. He isn’t eligible for the CFL draft until this spring so the Sun benefit by landing who is likely the best player in the CJFL as the regular season winds down. How big a catch is Simonise to the Sun’s season the rest of the way? We asked receivers coach Jay Christensen if he could wave a magic wand and have his club defeat rather than lose to the Westshore Rebels last Saturday but Simonise never show on the Sun roster.
Christensen’s response? “I’d take Simonise.”
The Hilltops are always balanced on both sides of the ball and this season is no different. offensively they are as likely to run as pass. The Sun linebacker, who hails from Yorkton was the defensive player of the game in last season’s Canadian Bowl. He will be called on to repeat that performance Saturday night
The offensive player of the 2015 championship game, he had 209 all- purpose yards and 2 touchdowns. This shifty running back will be a cause for concern for the Sun defense
4 sacks, 2 batted balls and a blocked kick to his credit so far this season. This athletic Hilltop will make plays for his team Saturday