The V.I. Raiders say they got football season off to a “great start” this past weekend.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League team held its main camp Thursday through Monday at Port Alberni. Coach Matthew “Snoop” Blokker said players worked hard and made progress.
“We’ve given ourself a great start and something to build on,” Blokker said. “That’s what camp’s all about.”
The Raiders held nine practices over the five days.
“Both mentally and physically we were challenged a lot by this camp,” said Andrew Oake, veteran linebacker. “We had a lot of conditioning before practices and you’re just trying to keep your mind right when you’re tired and stay strong.”
Other B.C. Football Conference teams are working hard at this time of year, too, but Blokker said he can’t worry about what the rest of the league is doing.
“We just do it our way here and we know how we can prepare ourselves for Game 1,” he said. “If it compares to any of the other years we’re right on pace.”
Mike Schaper, veteran receiver, said the Raiders “work that extra mile” to be better.
“I’m not saying other teams don’t, but I know for a fact that we work ridiculously hard…” he said. “The work ethic is probably the No. 1, unquestionable thing.”
The rookies showed it, too, Schaper said, so when the veterans see that, it helps to create the “family bond” the Raiders seek.
Some of the youngsters can sure play football, too.
“We have some guys right now, that if they keep focused and they keep learning at the pace they’re learning at, they could definitely start for us and contribute in big ways,” said Oake.
Blokker said especially on defence, there were some great surprises from rookies.
Dylan Chapdelaine, formerly of the Barsby Bulldogs and Nanaimo Redmen, turned coaches’ heads at camp at the middle linebacker position.
“He was just a stud this weekend and solidified himself as the starter, I believe, going into Week 1,” said Blokker.
Also making a great first impression were three newcomers in the defensive back corps – corner Adam Laurensse, halfback Skylor Letcher and safety Cole Bishop.
“We knew we’d have a good defensive line this year, there’s no doubt about it, but the rest of the defence is shaping up pretty nice,” Blokker said.
On offence, he liked the continuity his quarterbacks and receivers showed, but noted that execution needs to improve on run plays.
The coach believes he still needs to add depth to the defensive front seven and the offensive line.
“We have a really clear idea of how talented we are and maybe where some of our weaknesses are at this point in time, and what we still need to do,” Blokker said. “I think we’ll go out and accomplish that.”
GAME ON … The Raiders play an exhibition game in Victoria on Saturday, July 23, against the Westshore Rebels at 2 p.m. at Bear Mountain Stadium. Look for a preview later this week at www.nanaimobulletin.com.