Penalty gremlins perched on the shoulders of the Langley Rams Saturday at McLeod Stadium.
And the timing couldn’t have been any worse for the home team, with the Rams playing the most important game of their B.C. Football Conference regular season.
A rash of penalties cost the Rams, who lost 24-18 to the visiting Vancouver Island Raiders from Nanaimo.
The game was for second place in the BCFC and home field advantage in the league’s playoff semifinal.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 6-3 and clinched second in the BCFC.
There is now no way the Rams, who saw their record drop to 5-4, will be able to catch the Raiders.
In fact, Langley will need to beat the 2-7 Westshore Rebels this Saturday at Westhills Stadium in Langford to secure third in the standings, and a date with the Raiders in Nanaimo in the semifinal.
You couldn’t fault the Rams’ effort in this one, played on a beautiful, sunny late afternoon on the McLeod Stadium turf.
But penalty after penalty cost the Rams valuable field position.
Rams head coach Jeff Alamolhoda didn’t mask his frustration.
“I thought our guys were definitely pretty focused during the week of practice, and we established our physicality right away,” Alamolhoda said. “We started to move the ball offensively but unfortunately, every time we took a step forward, we got penalized and took two steps back. It ended up being [a big] part of the reason why we lost.”
Alamolhoda said the Rams could never gain momentum during the game.
“We never could get hold of the game,” he said. “We gave the Raiders too many opportunities, and a good team like that will take advantage of those opportunities.”
The penalty flags, by Alamolhoda’s count, were 21-4 in the Raiders’ favour.
“I have never been in a game like that in my life,” Alamolhoda said. “It was really something to see. We made our mistakes in that game but we also had some questionable calls at crucial moments against us, that could have changed the outcome.”
Langley led 7-0 after the first quarter and 10-7 at halftime.
Momentum shifted in the third quarter when the Raiders outscored the Rams 10-2 to take a 17-12 lead into the final stanza.
The Raiders had a 7-6 edge in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
For the most part, the Rams executed well, with quarterback Dylan Tucker connecting on 22 of 36 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown toss to Bobby Pospischil.
Khalik Johnson caught a game-high eight passes for 102 yards.
Raiders quarterback Liam O’Brien had a strong day, passing for 255 yards and a touchdown to wide receiver Arthur Fabbro while running the ball to paydirt twice.
Defensive highlights for the Rams included an impressive interception in the end zone by defensive back Nathan Carrol, as well as eight quarterback sacks in total, with defensive linemen Nick Wastad (three), and Alex Agnoletto (two) leading the charge.
And while the Rams played well, they just couldn’t put the ball into the end zone, with Pospischil scoring the only major of the day.
Rams kicker Brian Hope booted three field goals and added a convert.
Alamolhoda said the Rams have to be at their best if they see the Raiders again in the playoffs.
“The guys played their hearts out at but at the end of the day, we had too many penalties and errors,” Alamolhoda said. “We need to clean that up the next time we see them.”
FINAL WHISTLE: Rams centre Anthony Daly left the game in the first half with an apparent leg injury. He is being evaluated this week.
Regardless of how they do Saturday against Kamloops, the Okanagan Sun will win the BCFC regular season title. Kelowna’s Sun is undefeated going into the final weekend of the season with a 9-0 record