Raiders romp to B.C. gridiron title
Though the final result was decided early after the Richmond Raiders scored on their first three possessions, the joy and satisfaction the Vancouver Mainland Football League nine-man Bantam football team displayed in winning the provincial championship 41-6 over the North Delta Longhorns Sunday at Minoru Park spoke volumes.
It spoke of the many sacrifices made by 20 players and their coaches. The countless practices, especially those they really didn’t feel up to it attending. And appreciating that team came first by learning to accept their own roles while supporting each other.
“I felt more like a father than a coach,” said offensive co-ordinator Rob Parmar, who along with head coach Mark Talbott has coached the core of the Raiders since they were six- and seven-year-olds just being introduced to football in the flag division.
“After having limited success, for the kids to finally make it to the top is great. It’s a big morale booster that makes them feel that much better about themselves. They deserve it.”
Patrick Ruvalcaba rushed for the first touchdowns and Gabe Saklofsky added a third before the game was seven minutes old. Quarterback Tyler Moxin added a fourth major and then threw a touchdown strike to Saklofsky before the second quarter ended as the Raiders led 34-0 at the half.
North Delta scored on their second series of the third quarter to make the score 34-6 before Moxin stepped in front an errant Longhorns’ pass in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.
But while Richmond’s offense was clearly running on all cylinders, it was the defence, under the guidance of defensive co-ordinator Greg Fong, that set the tone—both to start the game and throughout.
“(The defence) was responsible for us winning this championship,” stressed Parmar. “It was the defense that gave our offence all the time it needed.”
Richmond, which compiled a regular-season best eight wins and two losses, played North Delta (4-6) three times in league play winning the first match-up 27-12 Sept. 16 in North Delta, 45-32 Oct. 8 in Richmond, and losing 24-12 in North Delta on Oct. 28.
Unlike the B.C. Lions, which after compiling a CFL-best 13-5 played well short of their capabilities in Sunday’s Western Conference playoff final loss to the Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Place Stadium, the Raiders were at their best in the post-season. But, said Parmar, complacency was beginning to set in after the team won its first seven games before losing two straight to North Delta and Coquitlam late in the regular season.
“Those losses were good for us (because it helped the Raiders get refocused),” said Parmar. “I remember after losing to North Delta having a talk with the boys and asking what the word complacency meant. We explained to them how it can (adversely) affect your goals.”
The players took the message to heart, winning their final game 19-3 Nov. 4 in Coquitlam to finish a game ahead of the Chargers in the standings.
“That gave us first place and home-field advantage through the playoffs, which was huge,” added Parmar. “And having 200 fans in the stands, almost all of them classmates of the players, was a big plus for the kids.”
Winning a provincial championship had been the Raiders’ No. 1 objective when they first stepped on the practice field last July. But it took much more than wishful thinking to realize the goal.
“To become a champion you have to act like one, and that begins and ends by respecting the game and your opponent,” Parmar said.
“Even while were up 34-0 at the half Sunday we reminded the boys of that. I’ve been in games against North Delta where they came back from touchdowns down.”
Three members—Darby Kwan, Gabe Saklofsky and Jacob Tubajon—of the champion Raiders also played this season for the Hugh Boyd Trojans’ high school junior team which lost a playoff heartbreaker last week 28-22 in double overtime to Vernon.