It is easy to miss the contributions of an offensive line when a football team is stocked with some of the most explosive players in the country.
Generally the only time they are noticed is when they make a mistake.
The work of Tyler Oldendorf, however, has not been overlooked by the Vancouver Island Raiders. He has been one of the best linemen in the B.C. Football Conference the last four years, and on Saturday, he - along with 11 other Raiders - will play his final game at Caledonia Park against the Langley Rams at 1 p.m.
It just happens to be for the Cullen Cup - the BCFC championship.
"Nobody wants to lose the BCFC championship game two years in a row, especially to the same team," said Oldendorf, who was named a BCFC all-star for the second year in a row. "Considering it is my last year, I want to take us all the way, I don't want to end my career on a bad note."
The 22-year-old Chilliwack native has not excelled at just one position, in fact the last two years he has played all five positions.
His ability to seamlessly slide along the line and to maintain his protection at a high level has made him as invaluable as record-breakers like quarterback Jordan Yantz, running back Andrew Harris and receiver Whitman Tomusiak.
"The guy doesn't take a down off. .. he never takes a practice off," said Raiders head coach Matt "Snoop" Blokker, who was named BCFC coach of the year on Thursday. "He leads by example, day in day out, he plays against the best defensive lineman constantly from the every team."
Oldendorf should have his choice of Canadian Interuniversity Schools to choose from next year, as he plans on continuing his playing career for at least two more seasons.
He has come a long way since his first year on the club and sleeping on Blokker's couch.
He has been a part of two BCFC titles and has played in a national championship, which they lost to the Saskatoon Hilltops.
Getting back there this year is his top priority.
However, if they don't, it will not tarnish his experience with the club.
"(Being a Raider has) meant the world to me, it's really helped me grow up as a man," said Oldendorf. "Having Coach Snoop as your head coach, I lived with him for a couple years, he's really taken me under his wing and really showed me the ropes and helped me grow up."
Tomusiak, a Nanaimo product, will also be playing his final game at Caledonia on Saturday, but he has a hard time wrapping his mind around it. His focus is more on the competition at hand.
"It's pretty crazy. I'm not thinking of it as my last game, more as I am just focused on the task at hand, where we're entering a championship game," he said on Thursday at practice, after being named the BCFC receiver of the year for the second straight season and offensive MVP.
He has a bright future ahead of him, possibly in the CFL after spending the season on the B.C. Lions' practice roster. If that does not pan out, he was one of the most hotly recruited players by CIS programs in Canada last year.
Defensive back Cole Bishop came back last year after a half season with his hometown University of Alberta Golden Bears. The fit was not right for him, and after playing the 2011 season with the Raiders, he felt the call of the Island once again.
"It just came to the point at U of A, that I knew this was the place where I had to be, at all times," said Bishop, who was also named a BCFC all-star on Thursday.
The Raiders roster is filled with former and future CIS players, not just Bishop. Their ability to attract and retain top college talent has been a big key to their success over their history. The key has been most of them are not one-and-done players, they will play out their eligibility with V.I. before moving on.
"It's a tradition," said Blokker. "It's finishing and graduating with your peers, graduating from this program. It's always that edge of knowing you have a shot of winning and that's what drives these guys to come back."
Bishop's first season of junior football was with the Edmonton Wildcats in 2009. That year they made it all the way to the Canadian Bowl, where they got hammered by the Raiders 51-14 in V.I.'s last national championship at Caledonia Park.
From that point on, he was sold on the program.
"As much respect as I have for the (Prairie Football Conference) and how great the teams are, I've been a part of the PFC and I just didn't feel like that was home to me," said Bishop.
GRIDIRION NOTES - Also receiving BCFC accolades on Thursday were middle linebacker Dylan Chapdelaine, who was named top linebacker, as well as an all-star; quarterback Jamie Ybarra was named top quarterback and top offensive rookie; and defensive tackle Ash Gayat was named an all-star on the defensive line.
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