Saturday night’s game at the Apple Bowl will be as exciting as it will be important for both the Sun and the visiting Vancouver Island Raiders.
Both teams are 1-1 and coming off road games. For the Sun, they will look to rebound after falling 33-20 in Langley, while the Raiders blasted the Westshore Rebels 39-9.
In the first two games of the season the Sun and Raiders are fairly even, the Raiders have scored 75 points, the Sun 61. On the defensive side the Sun have allowed 40 points, while the Raiders have allowed 53.
The Raiders are in a state of transition with new head coach Brian Ridgeway, the former CFLer. Gone is Matt Snoop Blokker, but the intensity of this match-up has not been lost. Regardless of the coaching staff this is a heated rivalry, one that has been one-sided on the scoreboard in the last number of years. As a matter of fact, since Andrew Harris left the Raiders for the bright lights of the BC Lions before the 2010 season, the Sun are 2-9 against the Raiders, their only two wins coming at the Apple Bowl. The Sun beat the Raiders 27-19 in 2010 and 17-3 last year.
Since 2010 the Raiders have outscored the Sun 212-312, largely behind the arm of now graduated quarterback Jordan Yantz.
But as they say, that was then and this is now. Head Coach Shane Beatty is 1-0 against the Raiders at the Apple Bowl and in tenses to stay undefeated after this key match-up on Saturday.
Offensively the Sun are hoping running back Alex Bradley will return after his terrific performance in Week 1 against the Huskers which saw him rush 13 times for 121 yards and a touchdown. Last weekend as Bradley sat out, Dillon Fortune was the primary back and he was busy carrying the ball 13 times for 80 yards and had a five yard TD plunge.
If the Sun running attack can have success against the Raiders that will open the passing game for Cam Bedore and Josiah Joseph. That said, Raiders defense has been stingy against the run allowing just 124 yards in the first two games. However their secondary hasn’t been as dominant. They have given up 660 yards through the air, including 437 yards last week against Westshore. Combined Bedore and Joseph have completed 19 passes for 249 yards.
As expected the Sun defense has been very solid in the first two games of the season, allowing a Conference low 40 points. Robbie Yochim leads the Conference with nine tackles and is tied with Beck Fullerton for a Conference high two interceptions.
The defense has collected four sacks (Ironstand, Gering, Gabriel and Machado), but have put tremendous pressure on the opposing pivot making them uncomfortable.
If this game comes down to the kicking game, the Sun will have the advantage. First year kicker Hunter Verhulst is a perfect 5-5 in field goals and 6-6 in converts.
Saturday night’s game will be very physical, but the Sun will need to discipline. Over the first two weeks of the season they have collected 31 penalties for 290 yards including a number of unnecessary roughness calls.
This is the first of three match-ups of the season between the Sun and Raiders, next weekend they will meet again in Nanaimo. The last time the Sun faced the Raiders in a home opener in 2006 and lost 31-18.
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