At least for one afternoon, the Vancouver Island Raiders looked like their old selves.
The Raiders crushed the Valley Huskers 56-3 in B.C. Football Conference action at Caledonia Park in Nanaimo on Saturday.
It was a game they were supposed to dominate and they did. But most importantly their young players took another step forward in their development, specifically rookie quarterback Jamie Ybarra and running back Michael Richott.
"Right now it's a process for this young team, and we're improving every week," said Raiders head coach Matt "Snoop" Blokker.
"We're getting better at the things we work at in practice and we're able to them in an execute them in the game."
Ybarra led the Raiders with 218 yards and five touchdowns, while going 8-for-14, and Blokker says those numbers could have been even better as he had two passes dropped, including one in the end zone. All of that was in the first half of the game.
But the head coach was not about to anoint him the starter. Jaeden Marwick also played well, completing 3-of-4 passes for 49 yards in a second half that was put in fast forward due to the BCFC's mercy rule.
Though Blokker has given no date as a deadline to settle starting positions, it is a battle that will continue until at least until the Labour Day bye week.
Ybarra knows full well what is at stake in their next game Saturday in Kamloops against the Broncos.
"I think the bye week will be a big week for the coaches to decide, not just for the quarterbacks, but for a lot of positions where they're flipping back and forth," said Ybarra. "I think after the bye week is when we'll get asked to start, kind of playing for the future and see who's going to be the No. 1 guy in a lot of those spots."
Another big battle position is tailback, and Richott had a big statement game, going for a Raiders' season-high 130 yards on just seven carries, including one run of 57 yards. He is fighting with Andrew Deleon for touches, and the Raiders veteran also had an effective afternoon, rushing for 49 yards on just four touches.
Ybarra is more than familiar with the talented Richott. The two played against each other in high school at rival schools in Winnipeg - Ybarra with the St. Paul's Crusaders and Richott with the Grand Park Pirates.
"He's probably one of the shiftiest guy's I've ever known," said Ybarra. "I don't think I've seen it yet where he has gone down on first impact. Most of the guys who chase him one-on-one miss and then once someone hits him, it's going to take another guy to get him down."
The Raiders also switched things up on defence for this game, moving players to new positions, especially in their secondary. Defensive captain Cole Bishop was moved from safety to corner back, swapping places with Jaxxen Wylie, and linebacker Andrew Rowe was moved to defensive half back and had the game's only two interceptions, returning one 38 yards for a touchdown. In all, the defence gave up just 208 yards, including 59 through the air.
"They looked really comfortable in their new spots and made some plays," said Blokker.
The other important part of this game was it allowed the Raiders to go deep into their depth chart, once they put the game out of reach in the first half. Three quarterbacks got into the contest, seven non-QB's had rushing attempts and five players caught passes. However, he would have liked to get even more of his bench in, but couldn't because of the mercy rule, which puts the game into straight time.
"I just don't understand why this league has a rule called a mercy rule when you're playing junior football," said Blokker. "You get robbed when you're a coach. You get 60 minutes after working our asses off all week to develop our players. I wish we would have had more time to get more reps. .. it's not enough for us to develop the guys we want to develop."
But they may get another chance at going into their bench in Kamloops, the Broncos sit at 0-3-1 after being beat 23-8 by the Okanagan Sun on Saturday. They have also already lost to the Huskers at home this season.
GRIDIRON NOTES - Linebacker Dylan Chapdelaine had a big game defensively for the Raiders, tying for the team lead in tackles with Arthur Fabbro with five, while also getting a sack and recovering a fumble. .. Marshall Cook led the Raiders with three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, while Dylan Schrot had three catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns. Whitman Tomusiak and Dustin Rodriguez had the other receiving majors.
Ben Ingram, Daily News / Vancouver Island Raider Arthur Fabbro tackles Valley Husker Duncan Finch as Raider Nigel Henry looks on during the Raiders' 56-3 win in BCFC action on Saturday at Caledonia Park in Nanaimo.;
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