Even in the midst of the poorest season in club history in 2012, the Okanagan Sun twice found a way to give the Vancouver Island Raiders all they could handle.
Two losses to the Raiders by a combined three points (30-29, 32-30) served as confirmation that regardless of what kind of season the teams are having, it remains the B.C. Football Conference’s most intense rivalry.
On Saturday night at the Apple Bowl, the two storied foes will hook up for the first time in 2013.
As most often seems to be the case when the Sun and Raiders collide, Robbie Yochim expects both clubs will leave it all on the field.
“There’s just something in the air, a different feel when we play those guys,” said Yochim.
“It’s one of the bigger rivalries you’ll see. It’s almost feels like a war when we play them.
The guys are looking forward to it.”
Both teams have undergone their share of changes since last season. With new head man Shane Beatty at the controls, the Sun is fielding one of its youngest clubs in recent memory and is largely inexperienced on defense.
The Raiders graduated 11 players from last year’s squad, including BCFC all-time leading passer Jordan Yantz along with receivers Michael Schaper and Dustin Pedersen, and are going through some key transitions on offense.
Still, Beatty said the six-time BCFC champs continue to be a dangerous opponent, in large part due to their veteran defence.
“They’re loaded up front on the D-line, they’re linebacking corps is deep and they have a lot of speed and experience,” Beatty said of Van Island. “It’ll be a good challenge for our O-line, but our strength is in our receiving corps, so we’ll have to throw the ball and throw the ball well to have success.
“Obviously, they’ve been a power for a long time,” Beatty added, “so it’ll be a real good test for our young team.”
New Sun quarterback Theo Deezar had success against Chilliwack last week with 173 yards passing and three touchdowns and for his efforts was named BCFC offensive player of the week. Beatty expects Deezar and second-year pivot Cam Bedore will both see playing time again this week against the Raiders.
Even though the Raiders went 4-0 against the Sun last season and have enjoyed a wide edge in wins the last half dozen years, Vancouver Island head coach Matt Blokker isn’t about to be swayed by past results.
“Everything that’s happened before, you can throw that out the window each time we play,” Blokker said. “There’s a lot of respect between our teams, and once the whistle blows you know it’s going to be a battle.
“By what I can see, the Sun have a great opportunity to build a solid team and we feel the same way about our situation in Nanaimo,” Blokker added. “The next few years bode well for both clubs. Nothing’s going to change the rivalry we have.”
Kick off between the Sun and Raiders Saturday is 7 p.m.