One of the most enjoyable training camp battles to keep a close eye on is in Nanaimo when a pair of quarterbacks for the VI Raiders hit the field.
Incumbent Jacob Laberge enters his second season after a tremendous rookie campaign as he goes toe-to-toe with 2013 CJFL Rookie of the Year Jamie Ybarra who returns to the Island.
Last year Laberge was a double threat to throw or run the ball. He completed 55.9% of this passes for 1,749 yards and seven touchdowns. His 211 attempts were the third most in the BC Conference in 2016 and he had an efficiency rating of 74.5%.
With his legs the Maple Ridge native not only scrambled out of the pocket to buy his receivers more time down field, but when plays broke down he was able to collect 306 yards on 52 carries and scored three majors.
Ybarra also knows a little about being a double threat. During HIS rookie season on the Island back in 2013 he finished with the Conference’s top passer efficiency rating of 109.2% when he completed 58.6% of his passes for 1,382 yards and 13 touchdowns.
On the ground he scored two more touchdowns on 15 carries gaining 132 yards.
Since winning the CJFL’s Rookie of the Year award Ybarra played a season at a junior college in the United States before re-surfing with the Winnipeg Rifles last year. In his home town he finished the season with 914 yards through the air and connected on six touchdowns helping the Rifles get back to the playoffs.
The Raiders coaching staff is hoping these two quarterbacks will push each other to make the team better. Ybarra enters his final CJFL season while Laberge enters his second. “Well first and foremost out of both quarterbacks I need them to perform on the field” says new head coach Doug Hocking. “With all the experience that Jake got last year he should be that much better this year. Bringing Jamie Ybarra in to compete with him is going to make Jake better knowing that there's someone with Jamie's experience and leadership qualities to compete with him everyday at practice. They need to also support each other.”
Having one or two talented quarterbacks is nothing new for the Raiders, who have been blessed by a number of quality pivots in recent memory. From 2009-2012 Jordan Yantz shattered most BC Conference passing records on route to becoming the greatest regular season quarterback in CJFL history. Following Yantz in 2012, Ybarra along with Jaeden Marwick and Jahmari Bennett each battled for the starting role leading the Raiders to the Canadian Bowl in 2013. Then in 2014 Liam O’Brien became the starter and stayed for a pair of seasons leading his club to the Conference final in 2015.
Regardless of who is named the Raiders starter on July 29th the overall team will be better thanks to the healthy competition that is created at the quarterback position. The Raiders will play the first CJFL game in 2017, kicking off in Langley against the Rams at 4:00pm on July 29.
Photo of Ybarra courtesy of Mijen Multimedia
Photo of Laberge courtesy of Brenda Pelland