V.I. Raiders quarterback Ben Chomolok looks to connect with a receiver in practice Tuesday, July 19, at Caledonia Park. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island Raiders excited about the start of football season

Raiders play Okanagan Sun this Saturday, July 23, in Nanaimo

Football season is about to kick off with a good, old-fashioned V.I. Raiders-Okanagan Sun matchup.

The B.C. Football Conference regular season starts this Saturday, July 23, as the Raiders host the always-strong Sun at Q’unq’inuqwstuxw Field, formerly called NDSS Community Field.

A few days before game day, Raiders coach Curtis Vizza was liking how his team was looking.

“I’m ecstatic where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new talent brought in, we have guys that are hungry, guys moving across the country to be here.”

He said the Raiders have a new look in a few different ways.

“Game plans, how we’re doing things as a team, the way guys have meshed, how they’ve bonded, I’m extremely happy where we’re at,” Vizza said.

He said the team has added talent at every position.

For the first time since in six years, the Raiders are entering the season with a new starting quarterback, Ben Chomolok, who backed up Jake LaBerge last season in the veteran’s final year of junior eligibility.

“He has seen what the game looks like, he knows what to expect with the speed of the game,” Vizza said.

The Raiders will look to take advantage of their QB’s impressive arm strength, but anticipate a “healthy mix” between rushing and passing plays.

“We’ve got some really great athletes at running back,” Vizza said. “We know we’ve got to get the ball in their hands for them to be able to make plays for us. Our offensive line looks pretty sharp, pretty big and strong this year so we’re going to do our best to move bodies and give our running backs some room to work.”

On defence, the Raiders went into the off-season knowing they needed to address their linebacking corps and secondary, and Vizza said the club succeeded in that respect, adding “solid players” with grit, intelligence and experience. The Raiders will have some big bodies in the defensive backfield who will be able to play physical football and create some turnovers. The team thinks a better-rounded defence this year will impact games in various ways.

“It puts our ability to scheme and insert plays and be creative with our defence much easier,” Vizza said. “So we’re able to try things that we weren’t able to try in the past due to experience, as well as being able to read the field and know what the offences are doing.”

Facing the Sun in Week 1 will be a challenge. Okanagan beat V.I. in a blowout in the B.C. semifinals last fall, though that team has a new head coach and lots of roster overhaul.

“We’re going to compete as hard as we possibly can and they’re going to show us where our strengths are, where our weaknesses are,” Vizza said.

GAME ON … The Raiders and Sun play Saturday, July 23, at 5:30 p.m. at Q’unq’inuqwstuxw Field. To see the Raiders’ full BCFC schedule, visit www.viraiders.ca.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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