Over the past two weeks, the Kamloops Broncos have shown they aren't as bad as the first three weeks of the B.C. Football Conference season would have suggested.
Now, head coach Duncan Olthuis wants more.
The Broncos fell to 0-4-1 with a 37-27 loss to the Vancouver Island Raiders at Hillside Stadium on Saturday. The result came one week after Kamloops dropped a 23-8 decision to the visiting Okanagan Sun.
Two losses are nothing to celebrate, but Olthuis is pleased that his team competed with two of the toughest teams in the conference. The Broncos' seven-year history is littered with blowout losses, including a 51-0 defeat against the Rams in Langley in Week 1.
As pleased as Olthuis is, he didn't get into the business of coaching to keep games close.
Okanagan and Vancouver Island "are two great teams in this league," the third-year head coach said, "and this shows that we can compete with these teams.
"But now we have to get the killer instinct . . . we have to finish these teams off."
The Broncos have made some progress since a dreadful start. After the big loss in Langley, Kamloops only managed a tie and a loss in a home-and-home set with the Valley Huskers - the Broncos expected to win both games.
The Broncos feel they deserved a better fate Saturday, however, in a game they led 19-11 at the half.
"I just finished watching film," Olthuis said Sunday. "I think we should have been up 30-11 at halftime. There were two bad calls - we got a field goal instead of a touchdown and the other was an interception. We got a field goal instead of 14 points."
On one of those "bad calls," an official called illegal formation on the Broncos when a lineman was ruled to have lined up wrong. The penalty overturned the play, which had turned into a Broncos touchdown. Quarterback Steve Schuweiler threw an interception on the next play.
The other call that Olthuis didn't agree with was on a goal-line play. Officials ruled that Broncos' running back Jacob Palmarin didn't cross the plane of the goal-line; Olthuis said he saw differently on video.
Anthony Arduini kicked a short field goal on the play after the close call.
"Jake looked like he got it in - but on a short play like that, we should have got it in either way," Olthuis said. "We can't blame the refs."
Schuweiler and Palmarin each ran in a touchdown, and Schuweiler hit Derek Yachison on another. Dane Douglas, Dan Orydzuk, Warabek Ayuel and Steve Liss each had an interception in the loss.
The Broncos have a week off before playing the Huskers in Chilliwack on Sept. 7. Olthuis will have the team on the field Monday and Tuesday, before giving the players the rest of the week off.
"We have to keep riding these kids," Olthuis said. "The bye week always comes on the same week every year, so we hope to play this momentum over. We're going to rest up the kids, get their minds off football and hopefully rejuvenate a bit."
EXTRA POINTS: Schuweiler returned to the Broncos' lineup after missing two games with a foot injury. . . . QB Connor Whitelaw, the starter the first four games, is nursing a sore ankle and didn't play. . . . OL Kyle Crall (knee) remains out, while OL Jack Gilliland (ankle) and OL Conner Black (concussion) are nursing injuries. Olthuis is hopeful they can play in Chilliwack, but said that LB Ben Groenewegen (undisclosed) went down late in the game and "it doesn't look great." . . . Raiders head coach Matt Blokker picked up his 84th career victory Saturday, passing Nick Kazawa (Surrey Rams, Tri-City Bulldogs, 1988-2002) for most on the BCFC all-time list. . . . With a first-quarter touchdown, the Broncos have surpassed 1,000 points as a franchise. The Raiders' final score pushed Kamloops over the 2,500-points-against line.