The Harbour City has always been a perilous port for the Kamloops Broncos, a berthing place for defeat.
That changed on Saturday (Aug. 13), when, for the first time in franchise history, the Broncos (2-1) earned a victory in Nanaimo, a 35-16 win over the Vancouver Island Raiders, who fell to 1-3 on the B.C. Football Conference campaign.
“There was some talk about it,” Broncos’ head coach Braden Vankoughnett said. “But we were more just focused on going 1-0 for the week and winning our football game. We talked about it after the game, about how exciting it was.”
Kamloops improved its dismal all-time record against Vancouver Island to 2-21.
Vankoughnett, offensive co-ordinator Stephen Schuweiler and offensive assistant coach Tristan Murray were playing for the Broncos when the club scored its first win over the Raiders, a 39-32 triumph at Hillside Stadium on Aug. 22, 2015.
“The guys are rallying and there is more excitement in the locker room than I’m ever used to,” Vankoughnett said. “But the guys are still showing up on Tuesday and working their butts off. We’re not getting complacent. We’re still treating ourselves like we’re at the bottom of the league, the underdogs every week.”
Vankoughnett highlighted noteworthy performances from the historic win on Vancouver Island.
Receivers Evan Guizzo, Chris Finden and Colton Meikle and running backs Cam Grzegorczyk and Jacob Mpoyo were among offensive standout players, along with the entire offensive line.
Shining on special teams were punter Thomas Jeeves and tackling machine Brock Dufort.
Defensive linemen Ethan Papineau and Maurice Onyemaenu, linebackers Avery Dunster and Peter Orajekwe and defensive backs Logan Ritchie and Keegan Curtis were among the ballhawks on defence, a unit that consistently forced the Raiders into turnovers.
For the first time in seven years, the Broncos — who vanquished the hometown Prince George Kodiaks 35-20 on Aug. 6 — are carrying momentum into a home game, a 6 p.m. start against the Langley Rams on Saturday at Hillside.
“I think the guys understand what we have in front of us, the defending national champs,” Vankoughnett said of the Rams. “That’s a big game for us. It’s a huge statement game and I think a lot of people will be tuning in to see if we’re the real deal or not.”
Langley and expansion Prince George are tied in the BCFC basement with matching 0-3 records.
The Okanagan Sun of Kelowna are atop league standings at 3-0, with the Valley Huskers of Chilliwack and Westshore Rebels of Langford on their tail at 3-1.
In 2015, the Broncos’ win over the Raiders was tainted, as Vancouver Island left the Tournament Capital with a victory in the season series based on point differential.
The Broncos knew at the time the series defeat would likely have playoff implications and it did, with fourth-seed Kamloops drawing the No. 1 Okanagan Sun of Kelowna in Round 1.
Okanagan dismantled Kamloops 75-7 in a semifinal laugher.
Kamloops — which fell 14-7 to visiting Vancouver Island on July 30 — has earned the season series win in 2022, a feat that may prove important if the Broncos can qualify for the post-season for the first time since 2015.
“We’re just trying to go 1-0 every week, man,” Vankoughnett said. “I’m proud of the boys.”
In other BCFC action on the weekend, Okanagan defeated visiting Westshore 65-29 and Prince George dropped a 34-17 decision to the Huskers in Chilliwack.
Okanagan Sun: 3-0
Valley Huskers: 3-1
Westshore Rebels: 3-1
Kamloops Broncos: 2-1
Vancouver Island Raiders: 1-3
Langley Rams: 0-3
Prince George Kodiaks: 0-3