The Okanagan Sun are mourning a death in the family.
The BC Football Conference club announced Thursday morning the passing of linebacker JT Fernandez.
He was 21.
The club would not reveal circumstances surrounding his death saying only that information would be released at the appropriate time.
“This is a tragic day for our organization,” says President Paul Carson.
"JT was a wonderful person and a standout on the football field. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.”
In two seasons with the Sun, the Cloverdale BC native made 47 solo tackles, three sacks, two fumbles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and blocked two kicks.
The Sun game with the Westshore Rebels, slated for Saturday evening at the Apple Bowl will go ahead as scheduled.
Fernandez is the third member of the Sun to die in season over the past 10 years.
All-star running back Jeff Halvorson passed away Sept 1, 2004 from what an autopsy revealed was an airborne virus that affected his lymph nodes.
He collapsed near the end of practice.
Running back Janson Towers died Oct 11, 2008 when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a semi at Highway 97 and Gordon Drive.
The number one defence in the BC Football Conference completely dominated the league's number one offence.
The Okanagan Sun D surrendered just three points and forced seven turnovers in a near flawless 31-10 dismantling of the visiting Langley Rams.
Special teams were also a big factor in the lopsided win.
The defence gave up just five total yards to the Rams offence in the opening 30 minutes while picking off quarterbacks Dylan Tucker and back-up Cecil Belanger four times.
Things didn't start well for the Sun as Rams linebacker Ethan Schulz scooped up Dillon Fortune's fumble on the opening play of the game and rambled 24 yards for a touchdown.
Two plays later, Sun quarterback Cam Bedore was stripped of the football giving the Rams the ball again deep in Sun territory.
Sun defensive back Robbie Yochim says it was tough to watch those opening few plays from the sidelines but chalked it up to nerves.
"Since day one we knew Langley was going to be our competition and we looked forward to this game so we were a little bit nervous," says Yochim.
"That first play I'm sure he had a few nerves but he's a great running back and he just has to hold onto that rock."
Langley was unable to convert and, after a a pair of failed offensive series, the Sun return game made its presence known.
Robbie Yochim gathered in a punt inside the Rams end of the field, broke a few initial tackles and scampered 50 yards for a major tying the game 7-7.
"This is the best blocking I've had ever with the Sun. It just seems like all the boys are just a family and they want to see you get that touchdown as much as you want to get in there," Yochim said of the blocking he received all night during kick returns.
On the next Sun series, facing a third and short, Brennan Van Nistelrooy burst through the left side of the line from punt formation for a 40 touchdown putting the Sun up for good 14-7.
Perhaps the turning point came during the next series when JT Fernandez picked off Ticker who was injured on the play and didn't return.
Dexter Janke intercepted Cecil Belanger twice in the second quarter.
He returned the first interception 48 yards to the Rams one. The Sun would eventually settle for a 17-yard Thomas Huber field goal.
On the next series, Janke returned an interception to the Rams 19 setting up a seven yard Cam Bedore to Lerone Robinson touchdown.
Late in the half Yochim again returned a kick deep into Rams territory setting up Kasey Russell's two yard plunge, his fifth touchdown of the season on just six carries.
The Rams, who inserted Jordan McCarty in at quarterback for the second half, managed the only points of the final 30 minutes, a 32 yard field goal off the foot of Steve Thomas.
McCarty had some success, completing 12 of 23 passes in the half for 141 yards and one interception.
The Rams finished the night with 180 total yards.
The Sun offence continued to struggle as Bedore completed just 7 of 19 passes for 65 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also lost a pair of fumbles as the Sun turned the ball over four times.
They finished the night with just 138 yards in total offence.
Sun head coach Shane Beatty lauded both defences for an outstanding performance.
"Both defences are very good aren't they. We didn't do anything on that defence and they couldn't get anything on us. But these are the number one and two defences in the league and probably the country," says Beatty.
Much of the talk going into the game surrounded the exploits of Langley kick returner John Beckerleg who came in as the number one return man in the league.
He was a non factor.
"We're the number one return team in the league," stated Beatty.
The Sun now own sole possession of top spot in the BCFC with a 5-1 record.
Langley slips to 4-2.
The Sun will travel to the Island next weekend to face the Vancouver Island Raiders for the third and final time this season before closing out the regular season with three straight at home against Victoria, Langley and Kamloops.
The top two teams in the BC Football Conference square off at the Apple Bowl Saturday night when the Okanagan Sun play host to the Langley Rams.
Both teams come into the game with identical 4-1 records to share top spot in the six team loop.
It's also a chance for the Sun to avenge their only loss of the season - a 33-20 setback in Langley a month ago.
The Sun had a chance to blow that game wide open in the opening quarter but had to settle for a pair of field goals when drives stalled deep inside Rams territory.
Kelowna led 8-0 after one quarter and 18-16 after three but their vaunted running game evaporated in the second half as the Rams grabbed the momentum and won going away.
Since that meeting in early August the Sun have reeled off three straight lopsided wins including two against the Vancouver Island Raiders.
Saturday's game is also a contrast in styles.
The Sun come in with the number one defence and the number one running game.
Defensively the Sun have allowed just 76 points in five games including one shutout. And, at +14, they have the best takeaway/giveaway turnover ratio in the league.
While the Sun like to play smashmouth football, the Rams come in as the most explosive, quick strike team in the league.
Langley operates with the number one passing attack and the number one return game in the BCFC.
John Beckerleg has a combined 19 kickoff and punt returns for 876 yards and five touchdowns.
The Sun held him in check earlier this season giving up just 25 yards on three combined returns.
Quarterback Dylan Tucker has an eyepopping 132.9 efficiency rating. He has completed more than 65 per cent of his passes for 1,141 yards and 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Two of those interceptions came against the Sun.
Saturday's game is virtually a must win for the Sun if they have designs on finishing atop the BCFC standings at season's end.
A Kelowna win would even the season series at a game apiece with the rubber match set for the Apple Bowl Sept 28.
A loss would put the Rams a full game ahead of the Sun and, with the tie breaker in hand, essentially a two game lead with four games to play.
Saturday's game kicks off at 7 p.m.
The Kamloops Broncos three game winning streak came to a crashing halt Saturday at Hillside Stadium
The Okanagan Sun scored 38 points in the second and third quarters in a convincing 54-16 win over the previously unbeaten Broncos.
Defensive back Kasey Russell scored on a pair of one yard runs to lead the Sun who found the end zone five times on the ground.
The Broncos opened the scoring on a 39 yard field goal but it was all Sun from there.
On the ensuing possession, quarterback Cam Bedore ran in from 19 yards out to put the Sun up 7-3.
They didn't look back from there.
A conceded safety and Thomas Huber's 26 yard field goal put the Sun up 12-3 early in the second quarter.
After TK Twagwu recovered a fumble at the Broncos 41, the Sun needed just two plays to hit the end zone again.
Bedore connected with Pierre-Luc Lord on a 40 yard strike then on the next play Russell punched it in from a yard up to put the Sun up 19-13
The Broncos made it close with a 13 yard major from Steve Schuweiler to Derek Yachison and a 12 yard field goal following an on-side kick but were able to just get a field goal the rest of the way against a stingy Sun defence.
Dillon Fortune capped off a 101 yard rushing effort in the first half with a 29 yard run to put the Sun back up 26-13.
After Landon King intercepted Schuweiler on the next Bronco possession, Alex Bradly ran in from 18 yards out to put the Sun up 33-16 at the half.
The Sun produced the only points of the second half.
Mikhail Maloff took the opening handoff of the second half and rambled 40 yards to the Broncos one. Two plays later Russell punched home his second major of the night and fourth of the season to put the Sun up 40-16.
Bedore tossed his lone touchdown pass of the night later in the third quarter, a 35 yard strike to Lerone Robinson before giving way to rookie Josiah Joseph.
The Mount Boucherie grad closed out the scoring with a 46 yard touchdown toss to Kamloops native Lliam Wishart. The touchdown was Wishart's first in the BCFC.
The win is the third in a row for the Sun who move into a temporary hold of top spot in the BCFC with a 4-1 record heading into their bye week.
The Broncos and Langley Rams, who were upset 52-44 in Nanaimo Saturday, are both 3-1.
Those two teams will meet head on next weekend in Langley.
The Raiders win moves them to 2-3.
After a week off the Sun will conclude the regular season with four of their final five games at the Apple Bowl.
They will begin the second half of the season Sept 6 when they entertain the Langley Rams, the only team who have managed a win against the Sun this season, a 33-20 victory at home earlier this month.
For the first time since they joined the league in 2007, the Kamloops Broncos play a meaningful game against the Okanagan Sun.
The Broncos, winless in 13 career starts against the Sun, put a franchise record three game winning streak on the line when they host their regional BCFC rival Saturday evening.
Kamloops sits atop the BC Football Conference standings along with the Langley Rams, both a perfect 3-0.
The Sun find themselves alone in third at 3-1.
They can leapfrog the Broncos with a win Saturday.
The Sun are coming off back to back dominating wins over the reigning BCFC champion Vancouver Island Raiders capped off with a 64-20 victory last Saturday in Nanaimo.
In that game Sun quarterback Cam Bedore enjoyed his best junior outing, completing 18 of 24 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns in nearly three full quarters of work.
Kyle Patchell caught eight of those passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns.
The Broncos meantime are coming off dominating back to back wins of their own against the hapless Valley Huskers.
Kamloops is led by quarterback Steve Schuweiler who is third in the league in passing with 876 yards and 10 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
His favourite receiver is Derek Yachison who has hauled in 15 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns.
Rudy Uhl has found the end zone four times.
The Sun won all three meetings between the two teams by a combined 104-8.
That includes consecutive shutouts of 30-0 and 51-0 near the end of the season.
In fact, the Sun have gone 10 quarters without allowing a point against the Broncos.
Saturday's game ends an ugly start to the season which will see the Sun play four of their first five games on the road.
They reverse that over the back half of the season, playing four of their last five in the friendly confines of the Apple Bowl.
The Sun begin the second half of the season Sept 1 when they host the Langley Rams.
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