Early season Sun-Raiders tilt carries weight
The season is still young, but don't expect either the Okanagan Sun or Vancouver Island Raiders to be treating Saturday night's B.C. Football Conference matchup with any less conviction or attention than they would give to the final game of the year.
The Sun and Raiders are both 1-1 on the season as they square in the first of three meetings in the 2014 campaign. Kick off for the Sun's home opener at the Apple Bowl is 7 p.m.
Saturday night's winner will stay on the heels of the unbeaten and first-place Langley Rams, while the loser will slip into the middle of the conference pack and quite possibly into chase mode for the remainder of the season.
Even though it's only Game 3, Sun receiver Thomas Huber said every win is important, particularly with the Sun and Raiders squaring off once again next weekend in Nanaimo.
"It's probably going to come down to games 7, 8 and 9 before things are decided, but that makes every game leading up to those so huge," said Huber, who also kicks off for the Sun. "This is a big one for both teams. They're coming off a win, and we want to get one so we can get on a winning streak and build some momentum. We always have good games against them, so I wouldn't be surprised if this one went down to the end."
The Raiders are coming off 39-9 victory over Westshore, while the Sun is looking to rebound from a 33-20 loss to the Rams last Saturday night.
The Raiders are in a state of transition with Brian Ridgeway, a former CFLer, in as the club's head coach. Gone is Matt Snoop Blokker, but the intensity of this matchup has not been lost.
"Both teams are going to come out hard and try and take control," said Huber. "We want to be the one to do that."
The Sun defence has been solid, as expected, through the first two weeks of the season.
Robbie Yochim leads the D with nine tackles and shares the club interception lead with Beck Fullerton (two each).
The defense has also collected four sacks (Ironstand, Gering, Gabriel and Machado) and has put tremendous pressure on the opposing pivots so far.
The Sun offense has been inconsistent over the first two weeks and, according to head coach Shane Beatty, will need to be considerably better against the Raiders on Saturday.
"We didn't play with urgency against Langley and we didn't protect our quarterbacks," he said. "We need to clean those things up."
Saturday night’s game is expected to be physical, but the Sun will be looking for more discipline to have success. Over the first two weeks of the season they have taken 31 penalties for 290 yards, including several unnecessary roughness calls.
The two teams met once last year at the Apple Bowl with Okanagan winning 17-3.
However, the Sun is just 2-9 against VI since 2010.
The Sun and Raiders will meet again the following week, Aug. 16 in Nanaimo.