The Comox Valley midget Raiders are hoping the third time is a charm at the Vancouver Mainland Football League championships.
The Raiders return to the league championship game – which doubles as a provincial championship - for a third straight year, looking to avenge 2021 and 2022 losses to the North Surrey Bears.
One thing for certain - this year, a new champion will be crowned.
The two-time champion Bears will not be there, but another North Surrey team will be: the Panthers.
The game takes place at Langley Stadium Nov. 26.
The veteran-laden Raiders are riding a five-game winning streak heading into the championship match.
“It was a rough start to the year, with all new coaching staff, and a few rookies, but the players all came together around mid-season and really started to gel,” said head coach Jay Johnson. “They ended up winning their last three league games (for a 5-3 record) and then their two playoff games.”
The Raiders beat the Nanaimo Seahawks 27-22 in the quarter-finals, then beat the White Rock Titans 28-22 in the semis, in a game that went to overtime.
Nearly half the Raiders on this year’s roster played in last year’s championship match, and nearly all those were on the 2021 squad, making this a team long on experience.
“Absopositivelutely,” quipped Johnson. “We have a fantastic group of veterans - a fantastic group that absolutely love the sport of football. It was through their leadership that they took the rookie core and got them all ready to play the season, and it all came together in the latter half of the season.”
Johnson said the championship game will be the final minor football game for half a dozen members of the team, although a few of them will continue to play, at a higher level.
Fullback Morgan Crisp is heading to UBC to play for the Thunderbirds, while Roman Poje, Matteo Godbout and Logan Courtenay have all been invited to try out for the Canadian Junior Football League’s West Shore Rebels.
“Winning this final game would be a great crowning achievement for this team,” said Johnson.
The Panthers will pose a formidable challenge for the Raiders. They are looking to put a cap on a perfect season.
“We know they are a very well-coached team, a very clean team, and a very fast team,” said Johnson.
As for the pep talk before the game?
“One vision, one goal, one heartbeat, one family,” said Johnson.
Bantam Raiders play for provincial crown
The midgets are not the only Raiders team attempting to bring home a provincial banner.
The bantam Raiders will be in Langley as well, facing the Nanaimo Seahawks for provincial glory.
The Raiders finished the season in second overall in their 10-team league with a 6-1-1 record. The Seahawks finished third in league standings, with a 5-2-1 record.
Efforts to reach the coach for an interview were unsuccessful by press time.