This time, there were no winners and losers in the battle of the rock.
The V.I. Raiders and the Westshore Rebels played to a 25-25 tie on Saturday in B.C. Football Conference action at Caledonia Park.
“There was a lot of positives,” said Jérémie Cheng, Raiders defensive back, who twice intercepted passes in the endzone. “That’s the second-best team in the country and everyone didn’t think this was going to happen, but we showed them where we play, level-wise … We’re not happy with not getting the win, but we’re definitely taking steps forward which is really good.”
The Raiders had a chance at a better result, as they had the final possession to try to put together a last-minute drive. They were able to get close enough for a 45-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left, but the kick didn’t have enough to get through the endzone.
“Having the ball in our hands with 40 seconds is like a quarterback’s dream, I guess,” said Jake Laberge, Raiders QB. “We went down there and we did our best and got in position and we didn’t get the points, but it was fun.”
The game had a low-scoring start before the Rebels receiver Nathaniel Pinto caught two touchdown passes in the last eight minutes before halftime to open up a 17-5 Rebels lead. The Raiders closed the gap to 17-12 on a one-yard Laberge TD run just before halftime.
A one-yard TD run by Nathan Berg and James Parker’s second and third field goals of the game put the Raiders up 25-17.
Rebels quarterback Ashton MacKinnon scored on a one-yard TD with three minutes left in the game and Westshore made the two-point convert to tie the score.
Jerome Erdman, Raiders coach, said his team played a much more complete game than it did last week.
“We got better. Still not good enough…” he said. “It was a hard-fought game. They’re a very good football team, but we know in our hearts we should have won.”
He thought his team’s offence did a good job of completing short passes to game-plan against Westshore’s pass rush, and he said his team’s defence threw in a couple of wrinkles that worked.
“Our defence has done a pretty good job all year and I think it was important for our offence to be able to move the ball consistently and put some points up against a very good defensive team,” Erdman said.
Laberge said his team had a game plan in mind all week and executed it well.
“Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted, but everyone was expecting them to come in and run us over and blow us out and they definitely didn’t do that…” he said. “Everyone in our locker room knew we could play with them and now it just shows the whole entire league that we can play with them, too, and we’re just as good as any other team.”
Laberge finished 27-for-45 passing for 328 yards and was V.I.’s top rusher with 44 yards. Brycen Mayoh had eight catches for 117 yards and Dustin Rodriguez made seven catches for 91 yards.
Defensively, Mason Kelley had seven tackles and two sacks and Kaelan Botel also had a sack. Cole Virtanen had five solo tackles and five assists and Dexter Shea had five solo tackles and four assists. Scott Messier and Doyle Sosnowski recovered fumbles.
For the Rebels, MacKinnon was 8-for-17 passing for 178 yards. Pinto had five catches for 161 yards. Jamel Lyles rushed 17 times for 118 yards.
Defensively for Vic, Kent Hicks had two sacks, Byron McKinnon had one, Nate Skeete recovered a fumble and Brody Uddenberg had five tackles and three assists.
GAME ON … The Raiders host the Okanagan Sun on Saturday (Sept. 24) at 2 p.m. at Caledonia Park.