The Prince George-Kamloops rivalry is getting stoked again for another Saturday night junior football slugfest.
The Prince George Kodiaks will get their third and final shot at the Kamloops Broncos when the teams renew their vows to get on the right side of the B.C. Football Conference scoreboard when they lock horns at Masich Place Stadium (7 p.m. start).
The Broncos have won all three games so far this season against the expansion Kodiaks and are coming off a 47-17 victory last weekend in Kamloops.
Kodiaks head coach Keon Raymond thought his team played better than score would indicate and he’s confident his players will learn from their mistakes against a veteran-stacked Broncos squad and will take advantage of playing n home turf to maybe pull off an upset.
“Our guys are a little young and they make mistakes, but I think they are learning,” said Raymond. “When you go against a team like the Broncos, with four- and five-year guys, they understand the game and our guys are getting to that point. It’s good in the first year trying to create a little rivalry with those guys.”
Wins have been difficult to come by for the Kodiaks (1-6), whose only triumph came on the road in Chilliwack Aug. 13 when they topped the Valley Huskers 28-20. The win over Prince George on Saturday ended a three-game losing streak for the Broncos (3-4).
Despite tossing a combined five interceptions last weekend, Raymond lauded the efforts of his two rookie quarterbacks – Liam Oczkowski and Sam Sabine. Oczkowski drove the Kodiaks down the field in the dying seconds of the first half and had the ball at the two-yard line in position to make it a one-score game with 30 seconds left but his pass into the end zone was picked off by Nolan Marsden-Beck. The Broncos went on to score 22 more points in the second half.
“On the interceptions I think there was two that we gave away and we should have had a better throw on them but when you’ve got two 18-year-old quarterbacks straight out of high school, they’re learning and I think they did a good job,” said Raymond.
‘”Our drive right before halftime when I think we were down 15, we went into the two-minute offence and Liam, our stud quarterback, orchestrated the drive down the field. Guys made plays and we got down to the end and a ball he should have put a little touch on, he put bit too much mustard on it and that was one of the interceptions. Those are the small things in a game, you score there and you’re down by eight and it’s a huge energy boost. When you throw an interception at the goal line, it just one of those that deflates us as a young team.”
Kodiaks receivers Evan Ingram of Calgary and former College Heights Cougars quarterback Jerome Erickson also impressed their coach. Ingram made four catches for 50 yards, while Erickson hauled in six catches for 68 yards and one touchdown.
Raymond also had high praise for defensive lineman Jason Kragt, a Prince George Polars high school graduate from Hixon, who has been a standout all season. Kragt contributed four unassisted tackles and two quarterback sacks in the loss to Kamloops on Saturday.
“Jason has really come on and I think he has the potential to play south of the border,” said Raymond.
Defensive back Keon Raymond II, the head coach’s son, also made four tackles and was the go-to Kodiak returning punts and kickoffs. Raymond II has 23 solo tackles this season, second on the team behind Marcellus Pope, who ranks third in the league with 28.
“We have some real good young talent on this team,” said coach Raymond. “Whether you’re coaching atom or bantam football, winning is tough at every level and we’re trying to get everybody to understand how to win. I took on the job knowing we’re bringing a bunch of kids together for the first time and developing a team and I think, by far, we’ve done probably better than any staff getting our guys ready and getting them to mesh as a group really early.
“It’s growing pains, but it isn’t how you start it’s how you finish.”
The Kodiaks’ secondary will be paying close attention Saturday to Broncos receiver Colton Meikle, wearing his No. 17 jersey. Meikle caught five passes last weekend for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He and Kamloops quarterback Reid Vankoughnett were in perfect sync. Keegan Curtis made three interceptions in the game against Prince George.
After Saturday’s game the Kodiaks will have just two games left. They hit the road for Langley on Oct. 1 and finish off their first season on Saturday, Oct. 8 against the top-ranked Okanagan Sun. The Sun (7-0) host the Langley Rams Saturday in Kelowna.
The Broncos are fifth in the conference and need to lock up at least fourth place to move on to the playoffs.
Tickets for Saturday’s game the Oct. 8 season final are available through the Tickets North website.