Two mistakes - one mental and one physical - in the dying minutes spelled the end of the Okanagan Sun season one game away from a chance to play for a national title.
The Langley Rams took advantage of a roughing the kicker penalty by Sun defensive back Ron Mwamba and, two plays later, scored the game winning touchdown and a 23-19 win in the BCFC title game before a raucous crowd at the Apple Bowl.
The Rams appeared to have tied the game on Steve Thomas' 21 yard field goal, however, the penalty moved the ball to the Sun six giving the Rams a chance to win the game outright.
Two plays later, offensive MVP Nathan Lund shook a couple of would-be tacklers and sprinted around the right end for a five yard, game winning touchdown.
The Sun, with 31 seconds left, marched the ball down the field but a potential game winning drive ended at the Rams 10-yard line.
"I love you man...I love ya," says Sun coach Shane Beatty of his conversation with Mwamba after the game.
"I can't get mad at him for that, no. He made a play and tried to block the kick to win the game and it never happened."
Minutes earlier the Sun had a chance to all but wrap up a trip to the national final against the Prairie Conference champion Saskatoon Hilltops.
Leading 18-16 and facing a third and inches from the Rams 18 with 2:58 to go in the game, the Sun were called for illegal procedure, forcing them to kick a field goal rather than try to get the first down and at least run down more of the clock.
Thomas Huber's 31 yard field goal sailed wide left increasing the lead to three and giving the Rams the ball on the 35 yard line.
They marched down the field for the winning score.
In the final analysis, the Sun lost this game because of their inability to convert excellent field position into touchdowns.
On four different occasions, the Sun had the ball inside the Rams 20 yard line - twice with first downs inside the 10 - and managed just three field goals and a single.
"There's the real turning point in the game. In the first quarter we have the ball inside their 30 three times and inside their 10 twice and we only came away with six points," adds Beatty who admitted the difference in the game was coaching.
"They out coached us all over the field. They outcoached us, they outplayed us, they were more physical. They were just better than us today."
The Sun led 6-0 after one quarter on a pair of Thomas Huber field goals from 15 and 26 yards out.
They were able to bottle up the Rams offence until later in the opening quarter when the Rams balanced running and passing game finally got untracked.
Jacob Patko finished off one drive with a five yard run six minutes into the second quarter then, four minutes later, on their next possession Lund ran in from 15 yards out to increase the lead to 14-6.
The score could have been much worse had it not been for Robbie Yochim's interception at the at the Sun five to snuff out a Rams drive just before half time.
The Sun again came out strong in the second half and cut the deficit to three after a safety and a 15 yard Huber three pointer.
Again, the Rams got the offence going late in the third quarter, however, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Patko fumbled on the Sun nine against ending a potential scoring drive.
On the next play, Alex Bradley found one of the few big holes he would see all day an, seconds later found himself in the end zone.
The 101 yard touchdown gave the Sun an 18-14 lead.
The teams traded singles before the events of the final three minutes unfolded.
The difference in the game was the Rams ability to move the ball over large stretches of the game effectively mixing in the pass and the run.
Lund wound up with 105 yards on 17 carries while quarterback Jordan McCarty finished 14-27 for 235 yards and an interception.
His favourite target was Malcolm Williams who made several key grabs including a sensational grab on the game winning drive. Williams caught six passes for 133 yards.
While the Sun did manage nearly 400 yards in total offence, 160 of those yards came on Bradley's run and 59 receiving yards on the final drive with the Rams playing a deep prevent defence.
Quarterback Cam Bedore was a pedestrian 10-19 for 74 yards and one touchdown, but in his defence, Bedore found himself scrambling for his life a good portion of the afternoon. He was sacked four times for 28 yards in losses and was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on three other occasions.
Rams head coach Jeff Alamolhoda says the difference was the Rams emotion.
"If we could play at a high emotional state without having lulls and peaks and we could be consistent throughout the game, we felt we were going to be victorious and at the end of the day we were," says Alamolhoda.
He says the game plan was to come in and run the ball, something Alamolhoda says allowed them to get the passing game more involved later in the game.
"We put them off their game a little bit by running the ball so then we were able to come out in the second half and keep them at bay with the run but then start getting the big plays with our big play receivers. And they did come through."
The Rams will host the Hilltops Nov 8 in the national title game.
The top two teams in the BCFC this season will meet next weekend in the league championship game.
The regular season champion Okanagan Sun won their ninth straight Sunday afternoon at the Apple Bowl with a convincing 47-16 thumping of the Vancouver Island Raiders in one semi-final.
The Sun will face the Langley Rams in next Sunday's title game after Langley edged out the Kamloops Broncos 48-46 in the other semi.
Sunday, the Sun rode the arm of quarterback Cam Bedore early before the running game finally got untracked.
Bedore threw touchdown passes of 51 yards to Thomas Huber and 74 yards to Lerone Robinson in the opening quarter as the Sun opened an insurmountable 20-1 lead.
"Big plays have been key for us all year...we need those big plays here and there just to get the momentum going and get our defence and special teams fired up," says Bedore.
"Our offence plays really well against these guys and at this point of the season we are just firing on all four cylinders.
On his opening possession, facing second and nine, Bedore was flushed out of the pocket and sprinted toward the line of scrimmage before heaving a bullet down field hitting Huber in stride for the first score of the afternoon.
Minutes later, after recovering a fumble on the Raiders three, Alex Bradley barreled his way in from three yards out and the Sun were on their way.
It was on their next possession when Bedore showed off his accuracy and arm strength.
Bedore heaved a 50 yard bomb to Robinson who had gained a step on his defender.
Robinson didn't break stride as he hauled in the rainbow and burst into the end zone for a 20-1 lead.
"I like to try and shoot the moon every now and then. The receivers don't exactly like it because they have to wait for it a little too long...but it gives them a chance to get as far downfield as possible and get as much separation as possible," says Bedore.
"Lerone did a great job of getting that separation and made a great catch."
The Sun offensive line wore down the Raiders defensive front the rest of the way allowing both Bradley and Dillon Fortune to break a couple of long runs.
Bradley scored his second major of the game on a 69 yard run down the right sidelines in the second quarter after taking a pitch from Bedore.
Fortune closed out the offesnive portion of the scoring with a 61 yard scamper down the left sidelines to put the Sun ahead 37-8 late in the third quarter.
Elias Rodriguez scored the final Sun major when he fell on a muffed punt in the Raiders end zone.
Thomas Huber connected on a pair of field goals and converted four of the five touchdowns to close out the scoring for the Sun.
"I'm really proud of these kids. They came out and they executed the game plan really well, says an elated head coach Shane Beatty.
"They stuck together and played sound football in all three phases. I couldn't be happier.
Unofficially, the Sun finished with 409 yards of total offence including 226 through the air.
The Raiders, who couldn't get many sustained drives on offence, finished with 307 yards.
Quarterback Liam O'Brien was 16 of 31 through the air for 217 yards and one touchdown.
He was intercepted once and sacked seven times as they Sun front seven kept the pressure on him all game long.
While the Sun planned to run the football as much as possible, Beatty says he wasn't concerned when the running game sputtered early on.
He says the game plan was to try and run inside then attack the outside which led to the two long touchdown runs.
As for Bedore's early performance, Beatty says his veteran quarterback stepped up when he was needed.
"We're a defence and special teams program and we play sound offence and run the ball. Cam stepped up today when we needed him as a leader because we couldn't run against them.
We had to make some adjustments and coach Lindsay did a really good job of it."
The defence, which led the league with a plus 35 turnover ratio, forced six more turnovers Sunday while the offence gave the ball away just once on a failed third down fake punt.
The Sun and Rams will meet next Sunday for the fourth time this season.
The Sun held a 2-1 edge over the regular season.
In fact, their only defeat this season came at the hands of the Rams, a 33-20 loss in Langley back during the second week of the season.
Kickoff next Sunday is 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl.
Tickets for that game are available through the Okanagan Sun website.
The Okanagan Sun will try to do something Sunday they have never done before - beat the Vancouver Island Raiders in a playoff game.
In six previous post season meetings between the two teams, the Raiders are 6-0, outscoring the Sun 198-101 including a 16-14 win four years ago in the lone playoff game between the two teams at the Apple Bowl.
While the Sun are looking to break a playoff goose egg...it's the Raiders who are trying to get 'off the schneid' this season.
The Raiders, perennial BCFC champions, lost all three meetings to the Sun this season, including a 38-0 shellacking in their only trip to the Apple Bowl.
"I think it gives our kids confidence going in..we know we can beat them," says Sun coach Shane Beatty
"It obviously leaves a little cast of doubt in their mind I would imagine."
Beatty will be back patrolling the Sun sidelines this weekend after serving a one game suspension for what was termed a breach of the coaches conduct policy.
"(It was) very difficult," says Beatty of missing the season finale against Kamloops.
"Like Father Gary said I felt like I was stuck in a room with no toys. But we've moved on and that's in the past now."
Despite the lopsided season series, the Sun outscored the Raiders 121-27, Beatty expects a good football game Sunday.
"They're a good football team. They're coached very well and they are very young," says Beatty.
"They are getting better every game ... and we're ready for them. It's going to be a slugfest."
While he expects a good game, Beatty also understands the mental challenge of trying to beat a team you have lost to on multiple occasions.
"I've been in that boat where I've lost to a team twice and the kids have a little doubt in their mind - a little mental block. Something starts to go wrong and it's like here we go again.
I don't see them coming in with the thought process of hey, they can't beat us a fourth time. We've beat them three times, we can beat them a fourth."
As has been the mantra all season, the Sun expect to run the football lots against the Raiders defence.
In their three wins the Sun rushed for a combined 788 yards. Dillon Fortune ran for a combined 275 yards while league rushing leader Alex Bradley ran for 127 in just two games.
Beatty says the game plan remains the same...run the football. He says the club will dress five running backs for the game Sunday.
The one anomaly was a 64-20 win in Nanaimo when the Sun passed for 411 yards.
Quarterback Cam Bedore, who will start Sunday, has 18 of 24 for 351 yards and four touchdowns.
While the Sun are expected to stay on the ground, the Raiders are likely to keep the ball in their air.
In three games, the Raiders amassed 866 yards through the air against the Sun.
Starting quarterback Liam O"Brien completed 61 of 88 passes for 831 yards against the Sun with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Sunday's game kicks off at 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl.
The winner Sunday will face the winner of the other semi-final between the Langley Rams and Kamloops Broncos in the BCFC title game.
Seven members of the Okanagan Sun were named to the BC Football Conference all-star team Monday.
It included three offensive players and three on the defensive side of the ball.
Running back Alex Bradley led the list and the league, rushing with 672 yards in the BCFC despite missing two games due to injury.
It's Bradley's second consecutive all-star selection.
Michele Vecchio and Cliff Crews, two of the hogs up front who helped open holes for Bradley and his running mates, were also named to the all-star squad.
As for the defence, defensive back Robbie Yochim and Brennan Van Nistlerooy were both named to their third straight all-star teams.
Yochim, who is expected to be named the league's top special teams player next week, led the Sun with four interceptions. He also had a blocked kick.
Van Nistlerooy had two sacks, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
A third defensive back, Dexter Janke was also named to the squad after registering three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Defensive lineman Zac Ironstand rounded out the Sun selections. He had six sacks and one fumble recovery along with 12 tackles and five assists.
The Langley Rams led the way with eight players named to the all-star team.
The VI Raiders had four players named to the team, Kamloops and Westshore had three while Chilliwack had one.
The All-Star returner and major award winners will be announced next week.
The BCFC playoffs kick off next weekend.
The regular season champion Okanagan Sun will host the Vancouver Island Raiders Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in one semi-final while the Langley Rams entertain Kamloops Saturday afternoon in the other.
The winners meet in the BCFC title game and a chance to host the national championship against the Prairie Conference winner.
The Okanagan Sun gathered Monday night for their annual post-season awards banquet.
Following a 9-1 regular season and a first place finish in the BCFC, it was a jovial Sun squad that gathered to receive some hardware.
After setting team, Conference and CJFL records this season Rutland Senior Secondary grad Robbie Yochim was named the team's MVP.
Here is the list of records Yochim set this year:
- New team record for kick-off return yards in a single game with 264 in Week 10 vs. Langley Rams
- New CJFL record for punt returns for touchdowns in a single game with 3 in Week 9 vs. Westshore Rebels
- New BCFC career record for punt returns with 156
- New team record for career kick-off return yards with 1,693
He also led the club with four interceptions and 34 solo tackles.
Yochim becomes the second RSS grad to win MVP in the last three years.
Steven Doege won the MVP in 2010, 2011, 2012..
Other 2014 award winners include:
- Scoring Leader – Thomas Huber (kicker/receiver) – second consecutive year
- Community Award – Kyle Patchell (receiver)
- Most Inspirational Player in memory of JT Fernandez – Brennan Van Nistelrooy (defensive back)\
- Most Improved Player – Cord Delinte (defensive back)
- Okanagan High School Player of the Year – Josiah Joseph (quarterback, Mt Boucherie Grad)
- Most Popular Player (voted by the players) – Robbie Yochim (defensive back/return specialist)
- Most Sportsmanlike Player – Thomas Huber (kicker/receiver)
- Special Teams Player – Robbie Yochim (returner/defensive back) - fourth consecutive year
- Top Defensive Back – Brennan Van Nistelrooy - second consecutive year
- Top Linebacker – Ron Mwamba
- Top Offensive Back – Alex Bradley (running back) - third consecutive year
- Top Receiver – Lerone Robinson
- Top Defensive Lineman – Zac Ironstand - second consecutive year
- Top Offensive Lineman – Cliff Crews and Michele Vecchio
- Rookie of the Year – Keagan Hughes
The Sun will now begin preparation for the Vancouver Island Raiders in the BCFC Semi-Final on Sunday October 19 at 1:00pm at the Apple Bowl.
If the Sun win on Sunday, they will host the Cullen Cup BCFC Championship game on October 26 for the first time since 2010.
The winner of the BCFC will host the National Championship Canadian Bowl on November 8, 2014.
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