With the dust barely settled on their controversial loss in the B.C. high school football semifinals, outgoing Ballenas Whalers coach Jeremy Conn has been named coach of the Vancouver Island Raiders.
Conn, who has been with the Whalers football program for the past eight years, will now become the head coach for the Canadian Junior Football League’s V.I. Raiders. The Raiders had five wins and five losses last season and lost to the Okanagan Sun in the B.C. Football Conference semifinal.
“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to coach football at the next level,” said Conn, who will continue teaching at Ballenas for the remainder of the school year.
Conn will be re-united with former Whalers Dustin Rodriguez, Terrek Bryant and standout quarterback Liam O’Brien, who won the All-Canadian Quarterback award this season and was named the top quarterback in the province in his senior year as a Whaler.
“He’s (O’Brien) a heck of a competitor, a great kid,” Conn said. “He’s a darn good quarterback too, so that’s one of the reasons why I’m excited to work with him again.”
It’s a move that comes after Conn spent time during the teacher’s strike helping out with the Raiders football team. Unable to coach the Whalers during the strike, Conn “needed his football fix” and found it with the Raiders, which opened the door a crack for him once the season was finished.
“I knew some of the guys with the Raiders,” Conn said. “I was hanging out with them and really enjoying doing it. When they made the change there, Hadi Abassi (Raiders owner) asked me for a meeting.”
“I thought it was just to talk about ideas, and then he started throwing the pitch at me for the head coaching spot. From there, it was starting to look better and better.”
Though the team finished with a .500 record, Conn has some talented players returning and will be looking to add a few more from the Raiders back yard.
“The first thing is tapping into the talent that’s on the Island,” Conn said. “We represent Vancouver Island, and as a high school football coach on the Island for a long time here, I’ve got some connections and I’m hoping to bring in some good players.”
Conn and the Whalers were robbed of a win after a controversial no-call in their semi-final game against the Mission Roadrunners was the deciding factor in a high scoring, 62-61 game.
This now leaves the Whalers with another vacancy at their head coaching position. It was Conn who filled the shoes of departing coach Sean Hines and now the Whalers will need to find a replacement for Conn heading in to next season.
The Whalers football program made great strides, having a banner year this season with both the junior and senior football teams making it to the provincial semifinals. It’s a vacant position that has a lot of upside to it with a talented group of juniors joining the senior team next season.