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Hardisty running up a storm for Westshore Rebels

Westshore hosts Vancouver Island on Saturday
Running back Gerren Hardisty has helped the Westshore Rebels get off to a 6-0 start. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Gerren Hardisty burst into the B.C. Lions Junior Showcase over the summer and hasn’t stopped running in leading the B.C. ­Football Conference in rushing.

“That was a big thing for me to get to showcase myself, and I also put on 15 pounds over the summer, and all the hard work has paid off,” said Hardisty, out of the Belmont Secondary Bulldogs.

“I have a goal of getting ­better every day.”

Despite the aerial show led by BCFC-leading quarterback Te Jessie and league-leading receiver Kieran Poissant, who were both in the official CFL training camp of the B.C. Lions, the Rebels have also been grinding it out on the ground with Hardisty, who leads the BCFC with 640 yards on 71 attempts for a dizzying 9.0 yards-per-rush average and seven touchdowns.

“Combined with our passing attack, our offence is hitting on all phases of the game. The goal I set for myself is to average 10 yards per carry,” said Hardisty.

“I have fast feet and try to use my field vision.”

Hardisty had 154 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns in last week’s 54-21 victory over the Fraser Valley Huskers at Starlight Stadium to be named BCFC offensive player of the week.

Hardisty has the Rebels in high-earth orbit at 6-0 in the BCFC. The Vancouver Island Raiders are in a low approach at 0-6 and in more of a holding pattern until CFL legend and Raiders alumnus Andrew ­Harris, who led the Nanaimo club to three Canadian Bowl national ­championships in junior before winning four Grey Cups as a pro, is scheduled to take over as Raiders head coach next season after retiring from the CFL.

Until then, there doesn’t seem to be much to the Island derby these days. The Raiders come into tonight’s game against the Rebels at 7 p.m. at Starlight Stadium following a 68-22 loss in Kelowna to the Okanagan Sun (4-1). Westshore won the first meeting of the season against the Raiders 69-0 in July at Nanaimo. The Raiders are one of two winless teams in the BCFC, along with the Kamloops ­Broncos (0-5), but narrowly missed winning their first game two weeks ago in a 17-15 loss to the Prince George Kodiaks (2-3) in Nanaimo.

Despite their seasons ­projecting in vastly different ­directions, no Rebels-Raiders game is ever taken lightly.

“It’s an Island rivalry game and means a lot to alumni, supporters and the community,” said Rebels head coach Dexter Janke, also a Grey Cup veteran with three appearances and a championship in 2019 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“And the most important game is always the next game.”

Asked about Hardisty’s ample contribution to the season, Janke said: “The ground game is essential to success and Gerren has such great football instincts. Off-field he is everything you can ask for, always in the weight room, and great in the community.”

That Hardisty is a local product is telling, says Janke: “The Belmont and Mount Douglas high school programs have been essential for us, so too Parksville Ballenas, as have the Spartans and Cowichan [community ­football programs].”

The centre on the offensive line blocking for Hardisty is James Mullen, also out of ­Belmont. Another notable on the Rebels’ offensive line is from farther afield — tackle Camauri Barney from Baltimore, who played in the NCAA for Morgan State. Tackle Xavier Venkataya is a Vancouver Notre Dame Secondary product who has played for NCAA Dakota State.

“My dogs up front have ­created so many holes for me,” said Hardisty.

The others on the deep Westshore offensive line, providing the pass protection for Jessie and holes for Hardisty, include Nelson Way, Mason Muelleder, Ethan Johnsen, Manny Fotiou, Marino Dujela and Jared Weibel.

“The O line has done an amazing job,” said Janke.

“So have our receivers blocking downfield.”

Meanwhile, admirably dogged Raiders quarterback Ben Chomolok has fashioned quite a statistical showcase for himself despite all the losing and is fourth in league passing with 880 air yards behind Jessie of the Rebels, Tyran Duval of the Fraser Valley Huskers and Trey Jones of the Langley Rams.

In other games today, the prospects of a first win don’t look great for Kamloops, either, against the Okanagan Sun. The Langley Rams (3-2) are playing Prince George. The Valley Huskers (4-2) have the bye week.

“We set the goal of having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and we take care of the next game on the schedule as it comes up week-by-week,” said Janke.

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