Sun knock off top dogs

With no disrespect to either Matt Mahler or Keith Zyla, but the Okanagan Sun are a much different, and better team with Jakob Loucks under centre.

The former Mount Allision collegiate returned to the lineup Sunday, and used his arm, and legs, to lead the Sun to a 35-22 victory over the first place VI Raiders.

Loucks had missed the previous three-and-a-half games with a concussion, suffered just before halftime of an 18-18 tie in Victoria.

His return came as the Sun began the second half of the season in what was as close to a must-win game as you could have at this juncture of the season.

While there was some noticeable rust on the veteran recruit, his presence in the pocket, and ability to scramble out of trouble when the need arose was a boost to an offence that has struggled since he went down.

"As you could see during the game, he's a playmaker, and that's why we brought him lout here," said Sun coach Ben Macauley of his signal caller.

"He did what he does best, which is make plays when things are falling apart, and put the ball where it needs to be. Not everything is going to be handed to you...you have to work for it, and Jake's a worker, and that's what we got out of him."

And, he was able to take advantage of field position provided by the opportunistic play of both the defence and special teams.

The defence forced five turnovers while the special teams squad blocked a pair of punts, one which Cole Stroud returned 70 yards for a backbreaking touchdown that put the Sun up 25-14 late in the third quarter.

For the first time this season, the Sun jumped out to a quick lead.

Midway through the first quarter, Loucks capped a five-play, 58-yard drive with a three-yard plunge to put the Sun up 7-0. The drive was keyed by a 26-yard catch and run from Javon Kaechele.

On the next play from scrimmage, Jmin Pelley stripped quarterback Jake Laberge of the ball, and fell on it himself, giving the Sun the ball on the Raiders 18. Two plays later, Loucks hit Brandan Ihanza from 15 yards out to increase the lead to 14-0.

The Raiders returned the favour. On the ensuing drive, Laberge drove the Raiders down the field before Rhett Williams ran in from five yards out to cut the deficit in half. After a Loucks interception, Laberge again marched the Raiders on an eight-play, 52-yard drive.

The drive was aided by a pass interference call in the end zone which placed the ball on the Sun one.

Two plays later, former Sun running back Andre Goulbourne dove in from a yard out to knot the score at 14.

The Sun had a chance to take a big lead heading into the locker room, but managed just four points after moving the ball inside the Raiders five.

An interception at the Raiders six led to a 12-yard Isaac Wegner field goal. Then, a seven-play drive that started at the Raiders 50 accounted for a single point on a wide 13-yard field goal try when a bad snap forced Wegner to hurry his kick.

After Stroud's long touchdown, Loucks put the game out of reach, engineering a six-play, 78-yard drive, capped off by a spectacular 12-yard touchdown reception from diminutive receiver Kian Ishani.

Backup quarterback Cole McGarvey, in the game in place of injured Jake Leberge, ran in a late 19-yard touchdown.

Laberge finished 20 of 46 unofficially for 338 yards and two interceptions. His favourite target, Mike West, hauled in eight passes for 190 yards, as the secondary had a hard time dealing with his size and speed.

"It was a matter of what were we willing to give up. We don't like the downfield stuff, and they got a couple of those things early, then we adjusted our coverage and limited him to underneath throws.

"We'll give away a five yard play all day as long as we're not getting beat deep. That being said, Mike West goes up with two or three guys on his and makes a play.

"Sometimes you just can't defend that. What we have to do a better job of is getting pressure in those situations to force an early throw so we have a chance."

Loucks finished the day 13 of 28 for 210 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran the ball five times for 47 yards.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening but was pushed back to Sunday morning after the Raiders encountered all kinds of problems getting to the Okanagan.

Their bus broke down just east of Hope. After a four-hour wait for a replacement but to arrive, they got stuck behind a serious crash on Highway 97C. They didn't get into town until well after the scheduled kickoff.

Sunday's win improved the Sun to 3-2-1 on the season, tied with the Westshore Rebels for 3rd in the BCFC.

The Raiders and Valley Huskers share top spot at 4-2. The Huskers lost 35-19 to the Langley Rams Saturday to drop into the first place tie.

The Sun will host the Huskers next Saturday.

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