An abysmal third quarter stung the Langley Rams in their game against Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Raiders Saturday at McLeod Stadium.
The visiting Raiders outscored the Rams 27-4 during the third stanza, and that proved to be the difference in their 41-29 victory, during a showdown between two B.C. Football Conference powerhouses.
With the win, the Raiders remain undefeated with a 6-0-1 record.
The Rams fell to 5-1-1 and dropped to third place in the BCFC, behind the 61 Westshore Rebels.
"They're definitely a team that will pounce on your mistakes," Rams' head coach Jeff Alamolhoda said, speaking about the Raiders, "and we're getting into the habit of compounding our mis-takes."
The Rams and Raiders combined for almost 850 yards of offence.
Langley didn't have an answer for the Raiders' star quarterback Jordan Yantz, who threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns, including two each to receivers Matt Sawyer and Whitman Tomuziak.
The Langley defenders had an opportunity to cool Yantz down a bit but couldn't find the handle on three sure interceptions, one of them at the Rams' five-yard line.
On the Rams' side, Nick Downey tied a Canadian Junior Football League record for career punt return touchdowns with 12.
Downey's 63-yard return tied the score at 11 late in the second quarter.
The Rams were sluggish after a month of meaningless football. The last game of any intensity that the Rams played was Aug. 25 against Kelowna.
They then had a bye followed by lopsided wins over Kamloops and Chilliwack, in which starters saw limited action.
On Saturday, the Rams' woes began at the midway point in the game. The Raiders scored 10 points in 14 seconds, and 17 points in a span of two-and-a-half minutes either side of the half time break, while Langley didn't have an offensive play in that span.
Downey's punt return touchdown tied the score and gave the Rams a big boost of momentum with a little more than a minute to go in the opening half.
Mark Mueller kicked a 22-yard field goal on the last play of the half to give the Raiders a 14-11 lead at the break.
The Raiders' Aaron Gordon returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown, giving Nanaimo a 21-11 lead just 14 seconds into the third quarter.
Before the Rams had a chance to settle down, a mishandled kickoff return gave the Raiders the ball on the Rams' 30-yard line.
Four plays later Yantz hit Sawyer with a 12-yard touchdown strike to give the Raiders a 28-11 lead just two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter.
The Rams fought back but couldn't recover from the mid-game breakdown.
Alamolhoda credited the Raiders for seizing their opportunities.
"We've got a lot of respect for their team and their coaching staff, and the way they prepared their team to come in there and fight," the head coach said. "They had a couple of lucky bounces that went their way and we dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't dig ourselves out of."
The Raiders tried a 37yard field goal on the final play of the game. The kick was short and Downey took the ball on the goal line. Sixty-five yards into what looked to be to be a 110-yard kick return touchdown, Downey was tripped up by the Raiders' kicker with a shoestring tackle. Had Downey scored, it would have been 41-36, a spread of five points instead of 12.
Alamolhoda said the Rams have to learn from the loss.
"We had a good start but we didn't finish in the red zone a lot of the time," he said. "We have to have a sense of urgency every play and understand that every little detail counts."
On offence, Downey had a strong game receiving with five catches for 141 yards. Malcolm Williams hauled down six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Rams' quarterback Greg Bowcott had an efficient day, completing 16 of 24 passes for 280 yards, and one touchdown, with one interception.
Langley running back Daniel Xavier ran the ball 14 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Langley kicker Nick Naylor was good on both of his field goal attempts, his longest from 19 yards away.
. . .
The Rams have some business to take care of in Victoria this weekend and still have a shot at first place, if they manage to beat Westshore.
A win on Vancouver Island would also guarantee the Rams second place and a home playoff game should they finish the season tied in the standings with the Rebels.
Should the Rams and Raiders (who are home to Kelowna) both win this weekend, then the Rams would need a 13-point win over the Raiders on Oct. 6 to take first place away from them.