The Okanagan Sun got a chance to relax Monday following a heart-stopping semi-final Sunday afternoon.
If you missed it, the Sun booted a 34-yard field goal in overtime Sunday afternoon in a 26-23 win over the Langley Rams in the BCFC semi-final.
Monday, it was awards night.
A time to celebrate individual accomplishments in a season in which the team finished second with a 7-3 record.
Linebacker Layne Hull, the heart and soul of the defence, walked away with two pieces of hardware, including the club's most valuable player.
Hull was also named the team's top linebacker for a second straight year.
Offensive lineman Michele Vecchio and defensive back Jamie Turek were also double award winners.
Vecchio, a Rutland Senior grad, was named top Okanagan high school player, and shared most popular player with running back Kasey Russell.
Turek was named most inspirational, in memory of JT Fernandez and shared top defensive back with Beck Fullerton.
Other award winners include:
- Scoring Leader – Kealey Heintz (Kicker)
- Community Award – Kian Ishani (Receiver)
- Most Improved Player – Tye Kitzman (Defensive Back)
- Most Sportsmanlike Player – Foster Martens (Quarterback)
- Special Teams Player – Eli Haynes (Linebacker)
- Top Offensive Back – Kasey Russell (Running Back)
- Top Receiver – Lliam Wishart
- Top Defensive Lineman – Jonas Gering (second consecutive year)
- Top Offensive Lineman – Quinn Horton
- Rookie of the Year – Conor Richard (Linebacker), and Liam Hamlyn (Offensive Line)
The Sun will now begin preparation for the Westshore Rebels in the CJFL Canadian Bowl BC Conference Cullen Cup Championship game on Saturday Oct. 29 at the Westhills Stadium in Victoria.
The winner of that game will host the 2016 Canadian Bowl on Nov. 12.
The Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams took fans at the Apple Bowl on a ride so wild it would put Disneyland to shame.
Sunday's BCFC semi-final wasn't decided until Sun kicker Kealey Heintz nailed a 34-yard field goal in overtime to send the Sun to the league title game in two weeks in Victoria.
But, in a game that featured more twists and turns than the Fraser Canyon Highway and so many momentum swings, nothing was more bizarre and, had more disastrous consequences than a decision by the Sun to run a fake punt on third and 10 from their own 20 with less than a minute to go in a tie game.
It was the gutsiest, craziest or dumbest of calls. You're a hero if it works and a goat if it doesn't,
"It was probably a combination of all of them, but, we felt situationally, if we gave them the ball back with too short a field, they were going to kick a field goal and potentially win the game," explained Sun head coach Ben Macauley.
"It was risky but I had confidence they hadn't seen that formation yet. We almost didn't get it but it was superior effort by our blocking team and Raquille (Cespedes) was the man of the day."
Cespedes had to dive for the first down sticks and made it by only a few inches.
"Coach called the fake but said if it wasn't open, I had to kick it," said Cespedes.
"I started running toward the sidelines and saw a guy coming. I went to kick it, but I saw a little hole and put my head down and just prayed I made it there."
In overtime, in which each team had a chance to move the ball from the offensive 25-yard line, it was the Rams with the first chance to score. After an incompletion on first down, Sun lineman Elias Rodriguez broke through and sacked Rams quarterback Tommy Robertson at the 42.
The Rams set up in field goal formation, but ran a fake that came up short.
On their attempt, needing just a point to win, running back Kasey Russell ran the ball twice to the 27, setting up Heintz's game winning boot.
This game in reality could have, should have, been over in the first quarter.
Cespedes picked off two Rams passes in the quarter and Conner Novak recovered a fumble. The Sun managed just 10 points from those turnovers and the field position they provided.
The Rams were able to hit a pair of Tiernan Docherty field goals late to pull to within 13-6.
But, in the dying seconds, Keith Zyla, after replacing an injured Foster Martens, heaved his first pass for a 75-yard touchdown to Shamar Donelson to give the Sun a 20-6 lead at the break.
Martens left the game the series before after taking a high, hard hit in the pocket.
"We want Foster to be alright. When you're talking about anything involved with the head, we're not going to roll the dice at all. No football game is worth a head injury," said Macauley.
The Rams shut down the Sun in the third quarter, allowing only 15 yards of offence. And, they produced the only score of the quarter, a seven-yard touchdown pass following a Zyla interception.
Another Rams major on a 51-yard strike and a 41-yard field goal put the Rams ahead 23-20 early in the fourth.
Heintz evened the score at 23 with a 30-yard boot with four minutes to go.
The Rams had a chance to win it in regulation time, but the sure-footed Docherty was wide right with a 32-yard field goal attempt.
That set the stage for high drama before the Sun were able to win it in dramatic fashion.
The Rebels will host the BCFC title game in two weeks after they squeaked past the VI Raiders 34-29 Saturday night.
The Sun and Rebels split their two regular season meeting, both winning on their home turf.
The winner of that game will host the national title game.
The Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams will meet for the third time this season, Sunday at the Apple Bowl.
This time, everything is at stake.
By mid-afternoon, one team will be heading to the BCFC title game, while the loser will clean out their lockers for the final time.
The Sun earned the right to host Sunday's semi-final by virtue of a 44-24 win over the Rams in the final game of the regular season two weeks ago.
That win also put the Sun on the right track, coming into that game losers of three in a row.
The Sun beat the Rams twice during the regular season, but head coach Ben Macauley said they're not worried about the odds of beating the same team three times.
"It kind of plays right into our hands with what we've been saying all year, we're going to measure ourselves by ourselves" said Macauley.
"It really doesn't matter who we play. Things change match-up wise, but we want to play better than we played last week."
Despite seeing each other twice already, Macauley said he doesn't expect a ton of changes from the Rams.
"You might see a few wrinkles, but I can't imagine there's wholesale changes.
"If you're changing everything this time of the year, clearly you're not confident that what you've one is working."
Macauley said his coaching staff and players are confident in what they've one.
"It's more about execution and discipline."
Discipline, the Achilles heal of this Sun team from day one, improved during the win over the Rams two weeks ago.
After being assessed a team record 32 penalties in a loss to the Raiders the week before, the Sun were flagged only seven times against the Rams.
Sunday's winner will take on the winner of the other semi-final Saturday night between the Westshore Rebels and the VI Raiders.
Kickoff Sunday is 1 p.m.
The Okanagan Sun placed six players on the BCFC all-star team.
The squads were released over the past few days.
Four members of the Sun's stingy defence were named along with a pair of offensive linemen.
Defensive backs Beck Fullerton and Conor Richard, lineman Jonas Gering and linebacker Layne Hull were all named all-stars.
Fullerton led the club with six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Richard, in his first year with the team, intercepted three passes and recorded a quarterback sack.
Gering registered 4.5 sacks and had 25 tackles while Hull had a fumble recovery, an interception and two sacks.
Offensive linemen Michele Vecchio and rookie Quinn Horton were also named to the all-star team.
The Langley Rams led the way with seven all-stars, three on offence and four on defence. Kicker Tiernan Docherty was named twice, as top place kicker and punter.
The regular season champion Westshore Rebels had six all-stars, including five on offence.
The VI Raiders had five players named to the squad while the Kamloops Broncos and Valley Huskers had one each.
After a week off, the BCFC returns to action with both playoff semi-finals.
The Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl in their semi-final while the Rebels host the Raiders Saturday evening in the other semi.
The Okanagan Sun offence, the same group which managed just one touchdown the last two games, showed up when they needed it most Sunday.
Losers of three in a row, and needing a win to repair a shaky psyche and secure home field in the BCFC semi-final, the offence amassed 512 yards in offence and scored six times in a convincing 44-24 win over the Langley Rams.
The Sun will host the Rams in two weeks in one league semi-final.
Along with the offensive outburst, the Sun also managed to secure five plays of 40 yards or more, three of them going for touchdowns.
"We've got play-makers, and it's about time we started turning first downs into touchdowns," said Sun coach Ben Macauley.
"That's something we've been missing most of the season. When guys like Rashaun (Simonise) and Shamar (Donelson) get going and they get an opportunity, they're going to turn those plays into big plays."
Simonise, who joined the club three weeks ago from the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, led the receiving core with five catches for 133 yards and an eye-popping 58 yard touchdown.
"It was probably the most complete game we've had with him.
"He's still learning how things go here and learning the system. We're figuring out the best way to use him."
The Sun led 9-0 after the opening quarter and built that to 16-3 at the half.
The Sun blew open a close game at halftime into a near rout in the second half.
Liam Wishart caught his second touchdown of the game, a 49-yard strike from Foster Martens in the third quarter before Keith Zyla came off the bench to find linebacker Layne Hull with an 8-yard strike seconds in to the fourth quarter to put the Sun up 30-3.
"It feels good honestly," said Hill of the touchdown in his final home regular season game.
"I used to play slot in high school, so it feels good to touch the ball again once in a while."
Kelton Kouri on a 15-yard run and Donelson on a 41-yard strike from Zyla also found the end zone for the Sun.
The win snaps a three game losing streak and allows the Sun to finish the regular season 7-3.
"It was huge to get that monkey off our back. I think we had lost our mojo a little bit there," said Macauley.
"There were some emotional letdowns the last few weeks, so it was good to be on the other side of that."
The league will take the Thanksgiving weekend off before getting the playoffs underway.
The Sun will host the Rams in one semi Sunday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.
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