Perfection eludes Sun

Whether it was rust from a bye week, overconfidence after a convincing win over the same opponent, a combination of the two or neither, the Okanagan Sun were sloppy and made too many mistakes Sunday.

It only cost them a perfect season, not an unbeaten one, after settling for a 31-31 tie with the visiting VI Raiders.

It's the same Raiders team they throttled 45-11 heading into the leaguewide bye two weeks ago.

The Sun seemed to have dodged a bullet when Isaac Wegner boomed a 22-yard field goal to put the Sun up eight with two-and-a-half minutes left.

But some miscommunication on defence, a theme that played itself out all game long, gave the Raiders a chance to tie it up.

"We unfortunately handed them that last drive," said head coach Ben Macauley.

"We preach in practice these guys have to talk to each other when they are changing off receivers in coverage from zone to zone, and the communication didn't happen. The receivers came up and made a good play, and we couldn't.

The Raiders moved the ball 80 yards in nine plays, including a pair of third down conversions for the touchdown. The two-point conversion tied it.

Things started well for the Sun when Nick Wenman found a wide open Shamar Donelson from 22 yards out. The game marked the return to the lineup for Donelson, who suffered  hamstring injury in training camp.

It was the first of four touchdowns for the speed-demon from Regina.

"Shamar's been itching to go for quite a while and we've had to hold back the reigns a little bit until he got full clearance," said head coach Ben Macauley.

"We saw early on they had a tough time covering him, so it was just a matter of getting him good protection and getting him the ball. I thought he could have done it two or three more times, but we missed either the pass or there was a break down in protection."

It started to unravel after that. Rhett Williams followed up a 38-yard scamper with a touchdown from 12 yards up to tie it, then, three plays after a Wenman interception, raider pivot Jake Laberge hit North Rainet from 10 yards out to put the Raiders up 14-7.

A failed fake punt in their own territory led to an 18-yard field goal and a 17-7 Raiders lead.

Wenman and Donelson got the Sun, and the crowd back in it to plays later on a 74 yard bomb down the left sideline.

Donelson and Wenman were at it again to open the third quarter as the two hooked up for a 42-yard strike, putting the Sun up again 21-17.

But, a pair of field goals, the second on another ill-advised fake punt, put the Raiders up again 23-21 after three quarters.

"We have certain checks based on what he (punter) counts for numbers, but, there was miscommunication between players again on the field," said Macauley of the two fake punts.

"They weren't intended to go that way, but guys weren't paying attention and signals didn't get relayed to the punter."

The Sun regained the lead midway through the quarter on Donelson's fourth major, a 34-yard strike from Wenman, one play after Brenden Hansen rambled for 16 yards on third and one.

That set up a thrilling final few minutes that left the teams walking off the field in a dead heat.

"They played their best game of the year and we played one of our worst. That combined, we got out of here with a tie, but it's not quite good enough for where we need to be down the stretch."

The positive was the play of Donelson, who caught five passes for 181 yards and the four touchdowns.

He said it was a blessing to be back on the field again and contribute.

"It was a total team effort, and I couldn't have done it without all 12 guys on the field and the guys in the locker room behind me," said Donalson.

"It felt good to be out there for the first time this year and make a contribution to the guys."

While the Raiders played better than they did to weeks ago, Donalsen says it was Sun mistakes that did them in.

"They had a really good effort, but honestly, it was us making mistakes and not capitalizing. They capitalized on our mistakes. We need to come out with a full effort and play to our potential every single play, and every time we'll win that play."

The Sun turned the ball over five times, including the two on failed fake punts. They created only three turnovers of their own.

The Sun remain atop the BCFC standings, a half game up on the second place Westshore Rebels.

The Sun hit the road the next two weekends in Chilliwck and Kamloops before returning home to host the Langley Rams Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Apple Bowl.

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