Strong 3rd powers Sun

Whatever coach Ben Macauley and his staff said to their players at halftime Saturday - they should bottle it and sell it.

They would make a fortune.

The Okanagan Sun shook off a sluggish first half and totally dominated the visiting Kamloops Broncos in the third quarter en route to a convincing 31-0 win at the Apple Bowl.

The Sun held a 10-0 lead after a dull, lacklustre opening 30 minutes but put it all together on both sides of the ball coming out of the locker room.

"It was just about going out there and executing what we know we can do," said Macauley.

"It wasn't so much about effort, the guys were trying, but it was about doing the right things and acting like you care. I didn't get the sense the guys really cared about winning. That was the message, show me you care."

Macauley said he pointed to the (BCFC Championship) trophy in the corner and said that's ours, let's go out and defend it.

Defend it they did, in spades, especially on the defensive side.

The bend-but-don't-break defence intercepted Kamloops started Colby Henkel three times on his first four passes of the quarter. He managed to complete just two passes for 21 yards in the quarter.

Newcomer, 18-year-old Conor Richard had two of those while veteran Beck Fullerton had the other.

The first play after Richard's first pick, quarterback Foster Martens found Pierre Luc-Lord all by himself near the goal line for an 11-yard strike. Martens initially lost the handle on the snap, but had the presence of mind to pick it up, roll to his right and find Luc-Lord for the major,

Later in the quarter, Kasey Russell burst over from three yards out for his second touchdown of the evening to put the Sun ahead 24-0.

Fullerton capped off a big night with a brilliant 72 yard interception return. Fullerton almost seemed to know exactly what play had been called, as he jumped the route, caught the ball in full flight, and blazed a trail to the end zone untouched.

"I saw it because when our linebackers blitz, they leave three wide open there," said Fullerton of the touchdown.

"Our D-line did such a great job of getting to him that they couldn't throw that. I kept seeing it over and over, and I knew they were going to throw that, so I anticipated it and ran off to the house."

Fullerton now has four interceptions on the season, two for touchdowns. Richard has three picks, all in the last two games.

Second-year defensive back Raquille Cespedes picked off his second of the season in the second quarter.

While Fullerton had the big interception, Macauley singled out Richard for praise during the team's post-game huddle.

"For him to step up and make some big-time plays...it wasn't so much the stats, but more about the timing," said Macauley.

Richard, a Canadian born player who came to the team from Tennessee, was serenaded with a chant of USA, USA.

While the defensive backs picked off five passes, the D-line had fun chasing Henkel for much of the night.

After having a hard time finding a slippery quarterback a week ago against Nanaimo, the Sun made sure they wrapped up the Broncos QB, sacking him six times in the first half for 40 yards in losses.

While the defence had their way much of the night, the offence, especially the running game, had all kinds of trouble moving the ball in the first half, thanks in part to a banged up offensive line. Three players up front were missing due to injury.

Running back Brenden Hansen, a workhorse in the backfield, ran the ball eight times in the first half for just 16 yards. four of the eight went for losses. He did manage 45 yards on four carries in the second half.

Martens, who completed his first six passes, was an efficient 17 of 24 for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Henkel, on the run all night, was 14 of 32 for 244 yards and the five interceptions. His numbers were aided by four plays of over 25 yards, but again, the Sun defence didn't give up the big play when it mattered.

The Sun are now 5-0 and lead the BCFC standings.

They hit the road for the first time in a month when they travel to Langley next weekend.

They don't play at home again until Sept. 17, when they entertain the Saskatoon Hilltops in the first ever inter-league, regular season game.

Sun earn 2 weekly honours

The Okanagan Sun have grabbed two of the three BC Football Conference Player of the Week nods.

Linebacker Layne Hull was named the defensive players of the week, while kicker Kealey Heintz is the special teams player of the week.

Hull was, in a word, a monster in Saturday's 37-19 win over the V.I. Raiders.

The 22-year-old wreaked havoc all over the field, registering one interception, a batted ball, a sack, one tackle and one assisted tackle.

Heintz, in his first season with the Sun, booted three field goals at crucial stages of the game. He also converted all four touchdowns, and averaged 36 yards on his seven punts.

Hull, Heintz and his teammates will look to make it five wins-in-a-row Saturday when they conclude a three-game homestand against the visiting Kamloops Broncos.

Offensive player of the week honours went to Westshore Rebels running back Jamel Lyles.

Lyles carried the ball 26 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the Rebels 45-32 win in Kamloops on the weekend.

Lyles leads the BCFC in rushing with 697 yards and six touchdowns over his first four games. This is the second time Lyles has been named offensive player of the week.

Sun brush off slow start

The Okanagan Sun started off slow but found a second gear late in the game to brush aside the pesky V.I. Raiders Saturday night at the Apple Bowl.

The Sun outscored the visitors 30-9 over the final three quarters, beating the stubborn Raiders 37-19.

It was their fourth win in as many tries this season and 22nd straight in the regular season, dating back to 2014.

"it was about the worst start we could have asked for. We just couldn't do anything right," said Sun head coach Ben Macauley.

"We were really flat. I would like to say it was an emotional letdown from last weeks intensity, but I think it's more of just effort. That's on us as coaches, not preparing them as well as we could have."

The Raiders built a 10-7 lead after one quarter on a James Parker 32 yard field goal and an 11=yard scamper from quarterback Jacob Labarge.

Sun quarterback Foster Martens sandwiched those two scores with a two-yard plunge of his own, but the Sun could feel fortunate coming out of the quarter just down three.

Some back tackling and spotty play in the secondary allowed the Raiders to march the ball up and down the field, almost at will in the opening 15 minutes.

A missed field goal and some key stops allowed the Sun to keep the Raiders from getting close to the end zone.

The Sun turned it around in the second quarter, dominating possession time, and scoring on two key drives.

Running back Brenden Hansen made it to the end zone from six-yards out after a Layne Hull interception to take a lead they would never relinquish.

Then, after Nathanael Anderson returned a punt 50-yards to the Raiders 40, it took Martens four plays to move the team down the field and hit Liam Wishart from nine yards out.

It looked as if the Sun would take a 21-10 lead into the half, but, as was they case at the end of each half last week, the Sun defence gave up a big play in the dying moments.

With less than a minute left in the half, Labarge broke free from the pocket and scrambled to his right before finding Dustin Rodriguez on a 75-yard pass and run, giving the Raiders new life again.

"It's just missed communication on our part. It's nothing to do with the coaching staff, just miscommunication on us," said Hull of the last minute touchdown.

"Just fix it in practice and hope to go on from there."

To the Sun credit, as they did in the win over Westshore, the Sun took the kickoff with seconds to go, march down the field and put Kealey Heintzz in position to boot a last second 335-yard field goal.

After a lacklustre and scoreless third quarter, the Raiders got the opening points of the fourth when Heintz booted the ball through the end zone after a poor snap during punt formation sailed over his head and rolled toward his goal line.

Beck Fullerton took away any momentum with an interception on the ensuing Raider drive then after a Heintz 25-yard field goal, Conor Richard and Raquille Cespedes combined to shut the door on any Raiders hopes of a comeback.

Richard broke through the line and blocked a punt that Cespedes picked up on the dead run and, 15-yards later, the Sun had a 34-19 lead.

"From film, we knew we could make a play on the punt team, and we thought we could block three of four of those punts," said Macauley.

"Conor made a great block on it, got a hand on it and Raquille, he sees the ball, he scores. We take about being opportunistic, he saw his opportunity and he took it.

It was the second big play in as many games for Cespedes, who ran a missed field goal back 120-yards for a touchdown a week ago.

Richard picked off a pass from back-up quarterback Kevin Chopek on the next play to set up a 26-yard field goal to close the scoring.

The Sun defence forced five turnovers in the game including three interceptions and a fumble recovery. They were in Labarge's face all night, but could manage to sack the slippery pivot just four times, three later in the game with the Raiders quarterback was likely tiring from scrambling so much.

Hull was in his face most of the game, recording the interception, a tipped pass that he almost found for a second interception and a sack.

"I just come out and do my thing and try to play to the best of my ability and help the team out the best I can," said Hull.

Martens went most of the way at quarterback, giving way to back-up Keith Zyla on just a few series.

Unofficially, he was 15 of 23 for 200 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He did most of that damage in the first half when he completed 13 of 16 for 173 yards.

"He 's tough and he knows when he's made mistakes. We have to do a better job of play calling," said Macauley.

"We took some shots down the field because we thought we could and went away from what works for us. What works for us is controlling the clock and getting second and short. We didn't get a lot of that tonight, so we have to do a better job there."

Wishart was the number one target for Martens, hauling in six passes for 94 yards.

The defence held the Raiders to 297 yards of total offence, 104 of those on two long plays at the end of the first half.

The Sun conclude this three-game homestand next Saturday when they host the Kamloops Broncos, 7 p.m. at the Apple Bowl.


Sun perfect, down Rebels

The Okanagan Sun won the battle of the top two teams in the BC Football Conference.

Before a raucous crowd at the Apple Bowl Saturday night, the Sun won their home opener, squeaking past the previously unbeaten Westshore Rebels 27-21.

This one looked as if it would be a blowout early and, while the game was not necessarily s close as the score indicated, it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

The Sun rode a few big plays to grab a commanding 17-0 lead just before the half. But, a wild final two minutes swung some of the momentum back to the Rebels.

A quick touchdown and a blocked field goal by the Rebels early in the third quarter had the Sun reeling.

But, with the Rebels in Sun territory, looking for the go-ahead points, the defence dug in, got the ball back, and the offence went down the field, kicked a field goal, and regained some of the momentum.

"That' a testament to our guys, never giving up. It's one thing to preach them to play four quarters of football, but I had to remind the guys, this is their championship," said head coach Ben Macauley.

"Just one play at a time. We lost a couple of plays, but if we can win the next one, we've back with momentum. We responded well and got supreme team efforts."

It didn't take long for the Sun to get on the board Saturday. On their first play from scrimmage, starter Foster Martens Shamar Donelson for a 62 yard gain. Two plays later, Martens hooked up with running back Brenden Hansen on a 12-yard strike.

It would be the last time the offence found the end zone.

:Their defence did a good job. We had a couple of dropped passes we thought we could have scored on.

"That's stuff we can't do later in the year come playoff time or when Saskatoon is out here. Other teams will capitalize on them. But, I was impressed with how we ran the ball and controlled the clock."

Macauley said the team is good at playing with the lead, chewing up yards on the ground and eating away at the clock.

On the next possession, following a Rebels fumble, Kealey Heintz hit his first of four three-pointers on the night to pub the Sun up 10-0.

Neither team was able to do much for the bulk of the next two quarters.

The Sun defence held the Rebels to just 16 yards in the first quarter, and not much more for much of the second. League rushing leader Jamel Lyles was held to minus three yards over the first 28 minutes of the game.

Then, late in the second, seemingly out of nowhere, Sun returned Raquille Cespedes took a missed field goal, scampered down the left sideline, cut toward the centre of the field at mid-field, and raced 120 yards for a touchdown that put the Sun ahead 17-0 with under two minutes to go in the half.

"It was 10-0 for a while and, somebody had to do something," said Cespedes.

"I caught the ball, saw the huge opening down the side and I just closed my eyes and went for it. I saw a huge hole, hit it and the rest is history."

Cespedes got a huge block around mid-field and thought then he had a chance to score.

"Honestly, I was extremely exhausted by the time I got to the 15 and I was starting slow down anyway, So I figured I might as well start a celebration if I was going to slow down," he said of his early touchdown celebration."

The touchdown seemed to motivate the Rebels, who took advantage of three big plays and one penalty on a four-play, 70 yard drive, capped by Lyles 22-yard touchdown run.

In the dying seconds, Martens burst through the line for 41-yards, setting up a 23-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to put the Sun up 20-7 at the half.

It was 20-14 with Heintz hit a single from a missed 18-yard field goal. Two more three pointers in the final quarter put the game out of reach.

The Rebels cut the margin to six in the final minute to make the score look a little more respectable.

Unofficially, the Sun managed 442 yards of total offence. Martens, who went a majority of the first three quarters, was 11-16 for 167 yards and one touchdown. He also ran the ball five times for 57 yards.

Hansen was the workhorse on the ground, carrying the ball 21 times for 120 yards. He added three catches for 39 yards and the one score.

The Rebels picked the Sun defence apart for 313 yards, much of that in the second half.

The Sun are now 3-0 on the season and have a date with the VI Raiders next Saturday at the Apple Bowl. The Rebels fall to 2-1.



Sun try to control emotion

The Okanagan Sun have, at times, let emotions get the best of them early in this BC Football League season.

You need look no further than the number of penalties assessed during the first two weeks of the season. The team has been flagged 47 times for 489 yards. Thirty of those penalties came last week in Kamloops.

"It is a concern, mainly for the reason that some of the stuff we can control. And, for the ones we can control we have to do a better job of being disciplined," said Sun head coach Ben Macauley.

"That's been a focus in practice this week, discipline. Guys are really fired up to play, and they need to be able to control that chaos a little bit."

There won't be a lack of emotion on or off the field Saturday when the Sun host the Westshore Rebels, a team, like the Sun, with a perfect 2-0 record.

It's not only an early showdown of the top two teams in the league, but marks the return of former Sun head coach Shane Beatty, now the assistant head coach in Victoria.

Beatty and team parted ways in less than amicable fashion after last season, bringing what should be some heightened emotion to a game that won't be lacking in that department.

Macauley said those who played under Beatty last year are BCFC champions, should play accordingly and hold themselves to a higher standard.

He wants players to focus on the task at hand.

As for the game itself, Macauley said a decision hadn't been made Friday afternoon as to who would get the start at quarterback.

Both Keith Zyla and Foster were able to move the team and generate points in a half of football last week against Kamloops.

He said he's seeing signs of steady improvement from his offensive group, as indicated by more than 200 yards gained on the ground last week.

Defensively, the Sun have given up more points than usual, but continue to have success stuffing the run.

They'll need to do that Saturday against a Rebels offence that features Jamal Lyles, the leading rusher in the BCFC.

Lyles has rushed for 338 yards over two games, including a career high 270 a week ago against the VI Raiders.

Kickoff Saturday night is 7 p.m.

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