If the Vancouver Island Raiders are going to have any success this season, it’s going to start with the arm of starting quarterback Liam O’Brien.
O’Brien, a former QB for the Ballenas Whalers, is about to enter his second season with the VI Raiders and will have some work to do if he wants to duplicate the season he had last year.
Named an All-Canadian, O’Brien led the B.C. Football Conference with 2,558 yards passing, tied for the lead in touchdowns with 18 and started nine games for the Raiders.
“It was an honour being named All-Canadian last year,” O’Brien said. “If I could get back to that level again this year, I mean that’s the goal right now but honestly the only thing I’m really looking for this year is more wins as a team and a chance at the national championship.”
O’Brien will be without his number one target from last season, Marshall Cook, who has graduated from the Canadian Junior Football League. Cook was on the receiving end of 826 yards of passing from O’Brien, hauling in six touchdowns in the process.
O’Brien knows it’s not going to be the same without the threat of Cook on the field but feels he’s got lots of options to throw to.
“Yeah, he was a big part of the offense,” O’Brien said. “But I definitely feel like we have a number of receivers who can step up and fill that void that’s being left behind.”
Along with losing his number one target at wide receiver, O’Brien and the Raiders also had new head coach Jeremy Conn in place this off-season.
A health issue forced Conn to step down and Jerome Erdman, who was hired on this past off-season as a defensive coordinator, replaced him.
“I was excited at first,” O’Brien said. “When I heard Coach Conn was coming in, I was really excited to be able to work with him again, considering he coached me all through high school. But with him stepping down due to health reasons, the whole team was behind him and supported him fully.”
“We want the best for Coach Conn and we’re wishing him a full recovery. Coach Erdman has stepped right in and brought a lot of intensity and passion to the team and we’ve all bought in right away. We’re a lucky group of guys with either coach at the helm.”
O’Brien and the Raiders will look to get back to their winning ways, after last season, which was the first in eight years without a Cullen Cup Championship appearance.
“As a team, there’s only one goal,” O’Brien said. “That goal is the national championship. I don’t think many teams, ourselves included, expect anything less.”
“In terms of individual stats, I don’t care about that stuff. I’m just looking to build on last season in any way possible. Winning games for the Raiders is what matters the most and that’s the goal here. All the individual stuff is just secondary to me.”