The season kicked off on the weekend with maybe a couple surprises, or perhaps not so much depending on what team you were rooting for. The Sun and Rebels wrapped the night off with a tilt about as close as we would have expected. There isn’t much to choose between these two teams as we thought would be the case. Rebels coach Charly Cardilicchia said it well in a pre-game piece in the Times Colonist “No team has ever made the play-offs at 1-0 and no team has ever missed the play-offs at 0-1.” The Raiders and Broncos meanwhile said “Don’t write us off yet.”
Grades this week, beyond the actual outcome of the games?
- VI Raiders- Picked by some for 4th place and they went on the road into Langley and knocked off the team some were picking to finish in first place overall. Looking at their schedule to start the season, and when you consider they are tackling the defending conference champs this weekend, it would be a logical bet to predict they could be sitting at 0-2 after two weeks. Fast forward and a win puts them at least in a tie for top spot. Either way, the win on the road against the Rams could prove to be massive a few weeks down the road.
- Kamloops Broncos-The Broncos really were in a no-win situation at home against the Huskers. If they lost, they would have been the first team to fall to Chilliwack in over two years. If they defeated the Huskers, well how much of an accomplishment was it at the end of the day? The way in which they dominated the visitors is about a flawless performance as head coach Brad Yamaoka could have hoped for.
- Okanagan Sun-This game could have gone off the rails for the Sun at home quickly as the club fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter. Head coach Ben Macauley might be a bit concerned that is two straight games his club gave a potent Rebels team a running start (they were down 25-0 in the Cullen Cup last year). The Sun settled down, outscoring Westshore 19-1 the rest of the way. Lots of football left to play this year, but taking advantage of the long road trip the Rebels dealt with was something the Sun simply had to do.
- Westshore Rebels-The Rebels likely made the long bus trip back down the Coquihalla thinking they blew it big time, and one could argue they are right in that assertion. At the end of the day though, they just got their longest and most difficult road trip out of the way and came this close to winning in a park that is not kind to most visitors. They have the Sun at home in week 10 and if that game is a first place showdown, the slim 4-point margin they have to overcome could be a difference maker.
- Langley Rams-It was alumni night at McLeod Athletic Park as the Rams made a big social media push to attract their large alumni base that goes back to their Surrey roots out to support the 2017 edition. One alumnus they may not invite again is Doug Hocking who brought 70 of his closest friends with him in his role as VI Raiders head coach. The BCFC has traditionally included at least one play-off game between the Rams and Raiders so getting knocked off at home is not the way to start the season.
- Valley Huskers-The Huskers will finish in last place this season, at least that’s what most observers likely believe. But the rebuild sounds promising under head coach Bob Reist as the club looks to work towards respectability based on the recruiting efforts he has made this year. Still, being on the wrong end of a 41-8 score with just 133 yards of offense doesn’t sound much different from Husker teams of the past. They host their big brothers from Langley next, and they will be in a sour mood after starting the season with a loss.
It wasn’t quite like 1996 when the Ottawa Rough Riders drafted a dead guy but the CJFL Top 50 Players list released last week had a couple blips from the BCFC perspective at least. Two BCFC players, Rebels linebacker Matt Pastro (#50) and Broncos defensive back Jordan Angove (#9) aren’t with their respective teams this year. Angove informed his club not long after the 2016 season that he would be trying his hand at university ball this year.
A couple of players who should be on the list who weren’t, Okanagan Sun linebacker Shaun Robinson, who while wasn’t in the league long last season while a member of the Westshore Rebels is without argument an impact player in the conference. Also, Langley Rams receiver Khalik Johnson who finished 3rd in the conference last year with 43 catches for 711 yards. He was late informing the club he was returning this year, but these four players alone indicate at least 10% of the top 50 can be called into question. Lists like that are geared to creating debate but these four are for all the wrong reasons.
A story in a Kelowna paper trumpeted the return of Jamie Boreham to the Sun coaching as special teams coordinator and assistant head coach. For current players who don’t know much about his junior reputation with the defunct Abbotsford Airforce before he turned pro in the CFL, how good was he? Well, if I was going to start a junior club and had to decide between former VI Raiders phenom Andrew Harris and Boreham, I would have a difficult time. In the late 1990’s Boreham did it all as a part time receiver/running back and full time punter and receiver crushing linebacker for his club.
This has me thinking about a top 10 list since I’ve been around the loop in 1991. Gives me something to work on for the Labour Day break.
Speaking of Andrew Harris, lest anyone think I’m questioning his junior prowess by second guessing his ranking on the best ever in comparing him to Boreham (I’m not)…how good was he? Well, a few years after he graduated he’s still getting credit for holding records that aren’t his. Many news stories last season referring to Jamel Lyles who broke the single season conference rushing and more this year when it was announced he was returning to university ball mentioned him breaking Harris’ record. In fact, Harris at 1476 was third overall in that category behind Greg Morris (1496-Rebes) and Matt Medwick (1592-Huskers).
4th overall or not, Harris is still the best I’ve seen.
Looking ahead to this weekend, we see the geographical rivals butt heads, as the Broncos head to Kelowna to take on a club they have never beaten, and the Rams wander up the highway to battle the Huskers who they almost always beat. The best rivalry of the weekend though is the Rebels in Nanaimo tackling the Raiders. These clubs always fight, perhaps not literally but if they were two boys in a grade one class the teacher would have them on opposite sides of the room for sure.
Road bet of the week? As I mentioned, the Broncos have never beaten the Sun so hard to go with them. The Rebels had the Raiders number last year so you have to like their chances in Caledonia, but the Langley Rams are big favorites against the Huskers at Exhibition Stadium. Easy choice to take them this week.