Week four is in the books, and what was expected to be a 4 team race may or may not be shaping up to be one of the 3 team variety. In a reversal of last week, all three home teams won this weekend, and all in dominating fashion. Let’s break down the week that was, and the one coming up, plus a bit more.
What a difference a week makes. In my last column the Rebels 2-1 record was put forward as a reason for potential concern, and I suggested the club could easily be 0-3. I further suggested they needed a statement win against the Rams to show the club was capable of what it accomplished in 2016. The Rebels owned the Rams in this one, and with 4 of their remaining 6 games at home (and a road date in Chilliwack), is there a team in better position right now than the Rebels? I don’t think so.
Langley Rams head coach Khari Joseph said in an interview with Dom Abassi prior to his club’s game against the Rebels that there was no added pressure on his 1-2 (now 1-3) team. He asserted that it’s not how you start the season, but how you finish, and he is accurate in that statement, especially in the game of football where play-offs are a one game affair. Still, the pressure is on in a major way now, as the Rams are 0-3 against the Raiders, Sun and Rebels with 2 of those losses coming on home turf. The Rams make the trek to Kamloops to take on the 1-3 Broncos and really need a win to get a leg up in the play-off race against the Broncos.
In a much talked about pre-season piece, Howie Zaron picked the Rams to finish first in a tightly contested BCFC. Looking at the results thus far, the Rams have either wildly under-performed or Zaron’s observations were off the mark, at least regarding the Rams prospects this season.
This franchise has a track record for performing well as a dark horse come the play-offs. They will likely be in that role come October.
Interesting that Rams receiver Khalik Johnson and running back Nathan Lund were dressed but did not play in this pretty pivotal game. The commentators speculated it was a discipline issue, but speculation is all we have. If that is the case, you have to admire Khari Joseph and staff as that’s a difficult call to make when two key performers are involved. Coaches decisions like that can go a long way to creating a disciplined football team.
The Okanagan Sun pummelling of the Valley Huskers was largely expected, although the 71 points the Sun put up was more than I thought they would manage. Sun head Ben Macauley and his staff took moderate heat online for the scoreboard, but he was rotating players early in the second half. The issue that the Sun’s depth being greater than the Huskers depth, and the Huskers defense being on the field as much as it was, conspired to make a rout inevitable.
The Huskers “are what we thought they were” as former Arizona Cardinal’s coach Dennis Green would say. In fact, they probably aren’t as good as we anticipated or hoped they might be. Still, as crazy as this might sound after a team loses 71-,7 there is reason to feel positive about the prospects in Chilliwack. As someone who has been around this conference over 25 years, and has seen scores like this before, I can say this Huskers team looks vastly different than other clubs I’ve seen lose by a similar score. Their bench looked better coached, and they definitely have talent, just not enough to compete with the upper echelon teams in the conference. The players held their composure as well as could be expected as the score got farther out of hand. If Bob Reist can convince his players that getting punched in the mouth for a year, or two will build their character and if they trust in him to bring in more talent like he accomplished in year one, that club is going to be a play-off team.
One of the advantages all the BCFC teams have is their small city settings generally means the team bonds are greater than a junior team in a big city where the players are more spread out. That bond is going to be critical for the team this year.
Congratulations to Raiders returner Brycen Mayoh for his 128 yard missed field goal return for a touchdown in a game that saw two of the most talented returners in the conference go head to head. Mayoh had a punt return TD as well, as did Broncos counterpart Max Joseph. That’s 4 return TDs in two games for this pair, and thanks to the modern era they will be able to show their offspring rather than just “Al Bundy”, it.
Mayoh’s 128 yarder was a BCFC record, which was just off the 129 yard CJFL mark. If only for end zone cameras existed in junior football. That looked like 129.5 yards to me…
Okanagan Sun back up quarterback Nick Wenman has been stellar since taking over for an injured Keith Zyla in week 2. He’s completed 48 of 78 passes (62%) for 729 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Zyla is expected to be ready for the showdown with the Raiders in Nanaimo Saturday, making for no easy decision for Sun head coach Ben Macauley unless his school of thought is that a player doesn’t lose his job to injury.
Trey Campbell is the best running back in the BCFC. It’s not even close.
Thanks to long time BCFC member and historian Paul Shortt for all his useful information. We missed sharing his 55 Yard Line column last week but want to pass a long a couple tidbits from it.
First, the VI Raiders became the fastest team in conference history to hit 100 wins in week three. It took them only 123 games to accomplish the mark. They beat the Sun to the century mark in 4 fewer games. The Raiders record currently stands at 100 wins, 21 loses and 2 ties.
Also, the Okanagan Sun won their 280th game in franchise history on Saturday. In their 37th year of play, they are the winningest team in BCFC history. They have a winning percentage of .828. They have 280 wins, 58 losses and 7 ties. The next closest team who has played more than 20 years in the BCFC is the Vancouver Blue Bombers who played in the league for 31 years and had a winning percentage of .627. The victory for the Sun on Saturday was also their 40th in 55 games against the Rams.
Are you watching BCFCTV? Each game is $10, and can watch live or on demand as often as you want until 11PM Sunday night. Pay the $15 for the all three- game package. It’s a great deal, AND the teams appreciate the revenue.
Speaking of BCFCTV, thanks to conference VP Tyler McLaren and former conference Prez Paul Shortt for handling the play by play and colour commentary this weekend in Westshore. Bad news for them is they were actually very good, which means we will be calling on them again.
This weekend’s action is very interesting, each game for different reasons. The first game in Nanaimo between the Raiders (3-1) and Sun (4-0) is the biggest battle, as a Raiders win will create a log jam for first in the conference. What makes this one even better is the teams meet the following weekend in Kelowna, so the bad blood that develops during a football game sometimes will carry over in back to back affairs. If the Sun win this game in a stadium that they have not fared well in over the years, they will remove all doubt they are the team to beat in the BCFC.
The Valley Huskers (0-4) are in Westshore to take on the 3-1 Rebels, and you can expect to see a unicorn sitting at your dinner table saying “pass the peas” if you think the Huskers have a chance. They will likely get blown out by a Rebels side that is just too deep in all facets. This game means nothing, other than a chance to rotate the bench for Charlie Cardilichhia, but it does mean something to the Huskers for the reasons I mentioned above. Games like this build character. The Huskers can quit on their coach and themselves before this game starts or somewhere before the final gun, or they can use it as a reason to work on their collective shoulder chip for next season. My gut says this team can’t spell quit.
The final game of the night is all about gut checks, as the Langley Rams (1-3) make the trek to Kamloops to take on the 1-3 Broncos. The Rams as we said are not playing like the perennial play-off team we know, while the Broncos have taken one step forward and one step back in each game this year. This game means a lot to both teams, and it’s hard to say which team is in worse shape with a loss.
Road bet of the week. The Huskers are looking strictly for moral victories in Westshore. The struggling Rams have lost at Hillside once before, and as much as they need this one and are capable of beating the Broncos, its hard to feel good about them based on their play the last couple weeks. The undefeated Sun will march into Caledonia and head into the Labour Day break 5-0.
Lastly, and I know this is a BCFC column but I feel compelled to bring up the CJFL interlocking experiment that continues this weekend with a pair of games. Now, anyone who knows me is aware of what I think these games will (will not actually) accomplish and so far the 4 games that took place last year between the BCFC/PFC and this year in two OFC/PFC games proves me and others right.
I want to be clear my opinions are not meant as a dig at the Ontario Football Conference. The OFC has challenges the PFC and even BCFC don’t. We need the OFC and we all need to work together to grow our brand and our product, which is why I am so against interlocking games. They are a major expenditure that hurt, don’t help our game.
Back in 2015 at the Canadian Bowl won by the Saskatoon Hilltops after a thrilling game with the Okanagan Sun I spoke to an executive member with the Ottawa Sooners who was in attendance as the OFC was looking at coming back to the CJFL. This Sooners exec felt strongly his club could beat the Hilltops and I questioned him how sure he could be of this as he had never seen a PFC club, at least not recently. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him after the game to see if he still felt that way after seeing the Hilltops and Sun on the national stage.
Two weeks ago the Sooners lost an interlock at home 51-0 to the Winnipeg Rifles who went 2-7 in 2016. This past weekend those same Rifles hosted the Hilltops and were blasted by a score of 44-0. As luck would have it, this weekend the Saskatoon Hilltops home opener is against as the Ottawa Sooners in a “historic” (the phrase we keep hearing when these games are promoted) inter locking game.
I’m not wondering if the Sooners exec will be proven right about his team beating the Hilltops, but rather if the scoreboard at the Hilltops field allows for triple digits…