A late season wake-up call proved to be the perfect remedy for the Richmond Raiders to cap an outstanding in spectacular fashion.
The Raiders captured the B.C. Community Football 9-Man Bantam provincial championship with a convincing 41-6 win over the North Delta Longhorns on Sunday at Minoru Park. The result came exactly three weeks after the Longhorns had handed Richmond its second straight loss in league play - a 24-12 defeat on the road. The Raiders had rolled to seven consecutive wins until hitting that minor bump.
"That was probably something we needed. The boys were getting a little too cocky," said Richmond head coach Mark Talbot. "But they were definitely ready to play on Sunday."
Small registration numbers left the Raiders with little choice but to play at the 9-man level this season rather than the traditional 12-man under Canadian rules.
Even that proved to be a challenge as only a handful of players turned up for preseason practices. Finally, through word of mouth, the roster grew to 20 players. Talbot admits he was a bit skeptical about coaching 9-man at first but quickly became sold on the game.
"It's a very different strategy," he said. "Even with a narrower field, there is so much space out there for nine guys. It's suited for big plays. The other great thing was the teams were pretty evenly matched so most of the games were fairly close."
The Raiders' usual potent passing attack was hampered under wet conditions in their semi-final encounter with the Vancouver Trojans. The end result was Richmond squeaking out a 12-7 victory.
The championship game saw the hosts firing on all cylinders as touchdowns from Gabe Saklofsky and a pair from Patrick Ruvalcaba gave them a 21-0 lead by the midway mark of the opening quarter.
Sakalosky added another on a pass from quarterback Tyler Moxin who also found the end zone. By halftime it was 34-0 Raiders.
"We've been making big plays all season and it was definitely the case in the final too," added Talbot. (Offensive coordinator) Rob (Parmar) has done a great job working with the boys and ensuring we have a balanced attack. Our passing game has been huge for us."
End zone... Another Richmond Minor Football team remains in the playoff hunt. The Atom Raiders won their VMFL semi-final game 36-30 over North Delta and will now host the Coquitlam Lions for the championship. Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m. on Sunday at Minoru Park.