One of the most memorable Canadian Bowl games in the 2000’s came in Nanaimo, BC in 2006 when the VI Raiders hoisted their first national title with an exciting 27-26 final beating the Edmonton Wildcats.
The game was played on Remembrance Day in front of 2600 fans, mostly cheering for the BC Conference champion Raiders. These fans were used to seeing the Raiders win after finishing the regular season 10-0 that season and breezing through the playoffs.
That said the Wildcats were no stranger to winning either, finishing the regular season 8-0, dumping the Regina Thunder and Edmonton Huskies in the Prairie Conference playoffs, then dismantling the St. Leonard Cougars 52-13 in the national semi-final game.
In the Canadian Bowl the Raiders led 10-3 after the first quarter, then 17-13 at the half as the game went back and forth. In the third quarter the teams traded touchdowns setting up a thrilling fourth quarter. The Wildcats outscored the Raiders in the final frame, but a short field goal off the foot of kicker Scott Dixon for the home side would seal the victory.
The game featured two tremendous offensive threats. Future CFLer Andrew Harris led the Raiders with 52 yards on the ground on four carries and had four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. But it was on special teams that gave us a preview of his CFL potential returning three kicks for 113 yards including a 90 yard return for a touchdown. Ricky Clarke also caught three passes for 42 yards and a score.
Quarterback Tyler Kerpan threw both touchdowns and completed 11 passes overall for 225 yards.
Over on the defence Lucas Desmet had a game high 10 tackles, the only player to hit the double-digit plateau.
For the Wildcats their offensive punch came from running back Tristan Jones who was yard for yard with Harris. He carried the rock an incredible 30 times for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also came out of the backfield for three receptions and another 36 yards.
Meanwhile quarterback Brandan Maher finished with 15 completions, 186 yards and threw a 21 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Kehr. He also found Kevin Wuthrich four times for 44 yards and Mike Whattam three more times for 47 yards. Kicker Ryan Elaschuk was a perfect 4-4 in field goals.
Defensively Wildcat Jean-Marc Jones had the game’s lone turnover, intercepting a pass.
For the Raiders it was the beginning of dominance in the BC Conference that saw them win three Canadian Bowl titles in four seasons. They would go on the road to beat the Burlington Braves in 2008, 35-8 and again the Wildcats in Nanaimo in 2009, 51-14 behind another stellar performance by Harris in his final CJFL season. The only year in this run the Raiders did not complete for the Canadian Bowl was in 2007 when they lost to the Cougars in the national semi-final 27-24.
Most experts around the CJFL agree the 2006 Canadian Bowl was a Classic.
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