Westshore Rebels quarterback Hunter Lake scrambles away from blitzing Vancouver Island Raiders defensive back Keenan Blenner-Hasset

Westshore Rebels quarterback Hunter Lake scrambles away from blitzing Vancouver Island Raiders defensive back Keenan Blenner-Hasset

Out of the football fire and into the Sun for Westshore Rebels

Banged-up junior football team take on national No. 2 team Saturday

After their previous head-to-head game went down to the wire and was decided by two points, the highly anticipated rematch between the Westshore Rebels and Vancouver Island Raiders was rather anti-climactic Saturday as the latter rolled to a 35-16 B.C. Football Conference win in Nanaimo.

Coming off their second win of the season, the Rebels (2-6) were looking to continue their momentum. But the fired-up Raiders (5-3) dominated the first half, built a 28-7 lead by halftime and held the visitors largely at bay the rest of the way.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed in the loss, but I’m still finding a lot of positive things about the game and the season to this point,” said Rebels head coach J.C. Boice. “I’ve been watching the game film and our kids competed the whole way. We were very beat up and were missing our starting quarterback, but our kids never panicked … they’re really starting to show signs of maturing as a football team.”

Almost from the beginning, Raiders’ quarterback Liam O’Brien picked apart the young Rebels defensive backfield with surgical accuracy. By game’s end he had connected on 17 of 20 passes for 337 yards and found the end zone for five touchdown passes.

Three of those scoring plays went to receiver Arthur Fabbro, who caught six passes for 156 yards on the day, including a 58-yard strike. Teammate Dustin Rodriguez went 60 yards on another play and hauled in seven O’Brien passes for 148 yards and one TD.

“The first quarter we had two three-and-outs (on offence) and we left the defence on the field too long,” Boice said. “Our front seven played outstanding, but our D-backs are a pretty young group … We tackled really well in open space, but we just gave up the big play a couple of times.”

The Rebels’ passing game was stifled, managing just 53 yards with Hunter Lake starting in place of injured No. 1 QB Ashton Mackinnon. Lake connected on just nine of 20 attempts, but contributed with his legs as well, rushing for 50 yards and one touchdown.

The visitors’ gained most of their yardage on the ground. Darcy Cherneff led the charge with 60 yards on nine carries, while James Danylchuk and Jordan Worth chipped in 28 and 23 yards, respectively.

Things don’t get any easier for the Rebels. This Saturday (Sept. 26) they’ll host the league-leading Okanagan Sun, who bring an 8-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking in the most recent poll.

“They’re going to be tough,” admitted Boice. “But we play really tough at home. The kids are excited to play, they’re hitting me up on Messenger and saying ‘hey, what if we try this or that.’ They’re really engaged …   That’s what I love about these kids, they love the direction we’re going in. They’re coming to work and doing the things that successful programs are doing.”

Rebel chatter … The club is inviting K-12 students to enjoy free admission to Saturday’s game during minor football celebration day. Each adult ticket allows for two free kids/youth tickets. Find more information and a copy of the coupon at westshorerebels.ca. Game time is 3 p.m. at Westhills Stadium.