The Game of the Week in the BCFC will feature what has been the best rivalry in the last few years as the Langley Rams host the defending Cullen Cup champion Vancouver Island Raiders.
The Rams and Raiders have met in the BCFC title game the past three consecutive years. Last season the Raiders downed the Rams on home field 48-37 in a wild back and forth game. The Raiders went onto blast Windsor in the National Semi-Final game, before falling to Regina in the Canadian Bowl.
In 2013 the Rams and Raiders met three times, with the Raiders winning both match ups at home; 41-27 and 22-12.
But as they say, that was then and this is now.
Both clubs have lost some very important weapons on both sides of the ball. The Rams have lost quarterback Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren and last season’s BCFC leading rusher Kyle Albertini along with sack leader Evan Foster and linebacker Arie Nakagawa.
That said, the Rams return a number of offensive weapons. Nathan Lund enters his sophomore season after a terrific rookie campaign, receivers Dan English and Malcolm Williams are back, as is kicker Steve Thomas.
Defensively the Rams will again be solid despite the departure of Foster, Nakagawa and Tanner Hamade. They return lineman Brandon Klein, linebacker Jacob Patko and DB Ben Sharpe.
The Rams were also very busy in the off season attracting a number of good, quality players like DL Dylan Roper and receiver Tore Corrdao, both from SFU and both CFL draft picks.
On the other side of the field, the defending champion Vancouver Island Raiders will look very different, starting with the coaching staff. Matt Blokker, the BCFC’s all-time winningest coach is in Calgary and defensive coordinator Doug Hocking is gone. Former CFLer Brian Ridgeway becomes the just the second head coach in Raiders history, while Karim Maher takes over the DC role, and former Raider Jordan Botel is the new offensive coordinator.
Like the Rams, the Raiders have lost some key contributors from 2013. Standout rookie quarterback Jamie Ybarra is now at a junior college in the US, Whitman Tomusiak has graduated and is practicing with the BC Lions and receiver Dylan Schrot is also gone. As a matter of fact the Raiders don’t have any of their three quarterbacks from last year returning. Jahmari Bennett has aged out and Jaeden Marwick has left.
Despite the movement, the Raiders are still the defending champs and as the cliché goes, “they’re the champs until someone knocks them off.”
On Saturday afternoon these rivals will face each other in the first of three meetings this season. The game will also mark the first game of the BCFC schedule and will no doubt set the tone for a hardnosed, gritty season. One everyone is looking forward to.