Going into Saturday night’s game against the Vancouver Island Raiders, the Westshore Rebels were winless against their chief rivals.
They are winless no more.
The Rebels survived a late first half meltdown and thoroughly dominated the game’s final 30 minutes on their way to an eye-opening 45-22 thrashing of their Nanaimo opponents.
“There’s a new king of the mountain on the Island. It is our rock now,” said Rebels head coach JC Boice.
At the half, it didn’t look like this Rebels team was the one that was going to put an end to the dismal losing streak.
Westshore held a 17-13 lead late in the second quarter and had a short field goal to give themselves a seven point cushion heading into the locker room when disaster struck. The Raiders blocked the kick and returned it for a score, a 10 point swing that gave Vancouver Island a three point lead heading into the break.
The expected script would have included that as the turning point, but the Rebels simply didn’t allow that narrative to gain any traction.
“We just went back and looked at what we had to do,” Boice said of the mood at halftime. “We gave them two special team scores, if you take that out of the equation we had the game in hand…we just fixed those things and came out and took the game over.”
The Rebels dominated the ball in the second half, forcing numerous Raiders three and outs and getting chunk yardage on offence both on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Scott Borden picked up yardage with his arm and his legs, while running back Jamel Lyles found gaping holes with regularity and kept the chains moving throughout the evening.
“Jamel is a very very special kind of athlete and football player and [with] the line we’ve built up front, we’re going to be tough,” Boice said.
“All of my credit goes out to the offensive line. Without them I wouldn’t be able to produce like I did,” Lyles said.
Defensively, the Rebels didn’t allow a second half first down until the fourth quarter was halfway done.
“The defence was awesome. They only scored two field goals if you take the special teams away. We’ve got great coverage, everybody’s doing their job, it’s just awesome,” Boice said.
Even as a first year Rebel, the importance of a win over their primary rival was not lost on Lyles.
“This win is definitely very big, especially to some of the guys that were on the team last year and in previous years, but we’re going to act like we’ve done it before. We’re not chasing good, we’re chasing greatness.”
The Rebels will continue that chase next week against the Okanagan Sun in the first of three consecutive road games. They won’t play home again until Aug. 27 when the Chilliwack Valley Huskers come to town.