Sun sets on Sun season

The Okanagan Sun couldn't overcome five turnovers, untimely penalties and numerous mistakes, as their season came to an end Sunday afternoon.

The Sun managed just a single point over the first three quarters and watched a fourth quarter rally fall short in a 15-8 loss to the VI Raiders in their BC Football Conference semi-final at the Apple Bowl.

Trailing just 15-1 midway through the fourth quarter, the offence finally found its footing. Connor Richard capped a ,long drive with a one-yard touchdown run to get the team to within a converted touchdown.

But, a 33-year gain off a fake punt near midfield gave the Raiders a crucial first down when it looked like the Sun would get the ball back in good field position and momentum on their side.

Then, in the dying moments, Rashaun Simonise had a 72-yard punt-return touchdown called back for a contacting the kicker penalty that effectively closed the door on a comeback.

"He (punter) didn't get touched by one of our players, it was his own player/ And, the ball came out funny so that tells us the ball was hit," said Sun head coach Ben Macauley of that final chance to tie the game.

"It was a bad call. They'll see it on film and we'll see it too. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, it was a very important call, and he didn't have to make it, but he did."

Macauley conceded the Sun should never have been in the position  to have to rely on a desperation play like that at the end of the game just for a chance to force overtime.

The Sun coach said he expected a low scoring game, and expected the Raiders to play well, but didn't expect to see his quarterback throw four interceptions, or watch his offence shoot themselves in the foot in the red zone.

After a tight, scoreless opening quarter, the Sun got the first break of the game when Richard blocked a punt, setting the Sun up on the Raiders 21-yard line. But, three plays later, starting quarterback Keith Zyla tossed his first of four interceptions on the day, snuffing out an opportunity to get on the board first.

At the end of the half, trailing by a touchdown, the Sun again found themselves knocking at the door, but penalties drove them back outside the 25. They had to settle for a single point when Isaac Wegner's 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the right. on the final play of the half.

The only touchdown of the opening half came on an eight yard toss from Raiders starter Jake Laberge to Brycen Mayoh.

Thee touchdown came four plays after Brannon McDougall recovered a fumble at the Sun 24 following a muffed punt return.

Mayoh was at it again in the third quarter. With the Raiders facing a first and 20 after a holding penalty, Laberge found a wide open Mayoh streaking down the left sideline.

The league's top receiver during the regular season trotted into the end zone from 52-yards out to put the visitors up by two converted touchdowns.

The Raiders also had chances to blow the game wide open, but were also unable to find a lot of success inside Sun territory. An interception by Nathan Mayers put the ball on the Sun 30. However, James Parker missed right on a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Late in the third quarter, Shawn Arabsky block a punt, setting the Raiders up on the Sun 25. They had to settle for a single when Parker was wide left from 25-yards out. It was his third missed field goal of the game.

Zyla was forced to go the distance for the Sun, who were without quarterback Nick Wenman due to a concussion suffered the week before in Victoria.

Unofficially, he connected on 19 of 34 passes for 246 yards and the four interceptions. However, 124 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the Sun played their best football of the contest offensively.

Prior to that, their most consistent play was a delayed draw with either Kelton Kouri or Robbie Rodrigues.

Maculey said it was a tough game to lose for many reasons.

"This is a final game for guys, some of them have been here for five years...it's a tough pill to swallow, especially to lose at home.

"A lot of these guys have football to play in their future but a lot of them don't This is probably the last time a lot of those guys wear equipment, so it's an important time for them."

He admitted it's been a grind over the past three weeks with injuries mounting up and the long hours to prepare for players and coaches.

It's the second straight year the Sun have failed to defend a league title it won two seasons ago.

The reigning BCFC champion Westshore Rebels will now host the Raiders net weekend for the league title.

Sun place eight all-stars

Eight members of the Okanagan Sun were named to the BC Football Conference all-star team.

The teams were announced over the past two days.

Five of the eight were on the defensive side of the ball as the Sun produced the stingiest defence in the league, allowing just 134 points against in 10 games.

Defensive back Tye Kitzman, who tied for the league lead with six interceptions, led the way for the Sun.

He is joined by defensive back Beck Fullerton, linebackers Conor Richard and Eli Haynes and defensive lineman Cole Klughart.

Richard is the only Sun defensive all-star also named to the 2016 squad.

Only three players were named to the name from the offensive side, including a pair of linemen, Marshall Klein and Matt Robinson. Wide receiver Nate Anderson was also selected to the team.

The regular season champion Westshore Rebels had seven players named to the all-star squad, including five on offence. The VI Raiders had six selections followed by the Langley Rams (three), Valley Huskers (two) and Kamloops Broncos (one).

The BCFC playoffs begin this coming weekend. The Sun, who finished second in the regular season, will play host to the Raiders Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., while the Rebels will entertain the Rams Saturday evening.

First loss for OK Sun

After putting up 19 points against the Westshore Rebels in week one, the Okanagan Sun displayed the same offensive output on Saturday night in Langford.

Unfortunately, the Rebels dialed up 30 points of their own to hand the Sun their first loss of the season, and snatch first place out from under them in the process.

But the Rebels would tie the game shortly afterwards, with a Kyle Clarke 12-yard chip shot making it 3-3 before the end of the first quarter.

In the second, the Rebels got their first touchdown of the night, when another deep drive allowed Trey Campbell to run the ball in from 10 yards out, for a 10-3 score.

But the Sun would almost immediately respond, after starting their drive from inside Rebel territory, thanks to a lengthy kickoff return from Conor Richard, who also drew a flag for a facemask on the run.

Starter Nick Wenman would connect with Abdinasir Abdi on a 20-yard pass, tying the game 10-10, less than four minutes into the quarter.

But the Rebels would swing the momentum on a blocked punt, which eventually lead to a 47-yard field goal from Clarke with just less than five minutes left in the half.

That lead would become 20-10, with Campbell’s second touchdown of the game coming from five yards out, 64 seconds before the half.

In the second half, the Rebels continued to stifle the Sun, and earned the only points of the third quarter off a 20-yard field goal from Clarke.

Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rebels QB Scott Borden connected with Austin Lindo-Brow on a 33-yard pass, making it a 30-10 lead.

After Keith Zyla took over as quarterback for the Sun, he found Nate Anderson in motion on a pitch to the outside, to cut the lead to 30-17.

The touchdown came on a third and goal from just inside the five, with just over nine minutes left in the game.

But with late possessions ending in a turnover on downs and a goal-line fumble, the Sun forced the Rebels deep into their own end.

On a third down punt, the Rebels conceded a safety, and held onto the 30-19 lead for good.

Up next for the Sun, a semi-final matchup with the Vancouver Island Raiders at the Apple Bowl next Sunday.

It’ll be their first meeting since the Raiders tied the Sun 31-31 in Kelowna on September 10.

Kickoff on Sunday is set for 1 p.m. 


Sun run all over Rams

Okanagan Sun head coach Ben Macauley called it a good display of playoff football.

A time when yards are harder to come by, and a good ground attack is key to success.

Unofficially, the Sun rolled up 324 yards on the ground in a sloppy 24-10 win over the visiting Langley Rams.

It was the final regular season home game for the Sun, (8-0-1), who close out the regular portion of the schedule in Victoria next weekend.

"We knew our offensive line was capable of pushing them around a little bit. They are really aggressive, so once we got through the first group of tacklers, we were good for long gains," said Macauley.

"We really needed a solid running game, we think that's going to be important in then playoffs. But, we have to get better production out of our offence in general in the passing game. That comes down to quarterback play, so we have to get better there."

Rookie running back Robbie Rodrigues was the workhorse in the backfield, running for 180 yards on 15 carries.

A 52 yard run on second and 22 early in the third led to Nick Wenman's five-yard touchdown run.

Rodrigues also turned a fourth quarter screen in a 52-yard play that set up the game clinching touchdown, a 34-yard run by Wenman.

"Robbie is a veteran guy, he's experienced and he has a way of making guys miss.

"We were really happy to see him get what he's deserved for all the hard work he's put in this year, and have it all come together with great blocking schemes set up."

Wenman, who has been lights out through the air in large stretches of the season had a tough time finding his receivers all day long. Partly due to a wet football after a brief pre-game rain storm, Wenman short-hopped at least a half dozen wide-open receivers during the game.

He completed just 11 of 24 passes for 166 yards, but two of those were short passes that turned into 92 yards of real estate.

Wenman made up for it with his legs, running for 60 yards and all three Sun majors.

The Sun pivot put the Sun on the board 10 minutes into the first quarter. After an Aldrich Barrios interception, Wenman moved the team 56 yards in four plays, capping the drive off with a 12-yard run.

Rams starter Colby Peters tied it early in the second quarter when his first completion went for a 41-yard touchdown to Khalik Johnson.

Isaac Wegner put the Sun ahead for good when he connected on a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

The three pointer capped off a strange final minute. The Sun were stopped on three cracks from inside the five in the dying moments of the half.

Then, while trying to burn the clock, the Rams took an ill-advised no yards penalty on the final play of the half giving Wegner a shot at the three points.

Trailing 17-10 late in the game, the Rams marched the ball down the filed behind backup quarterback Stephen Legare. With first down at the four, Legare's toss into the end zone was intercepted by Casey Pyper.

Four plays later, Wenman ran in from 34-yards out to ice it.

The Sun could have won this one going away, but penalties continue to rear their ugly head. The Sun were flagged for 21 infractions for over 200 yards in real estate.

Despite some struggles, Macauley said there were a lot of positives to take away.

"One of the positives was we played well across the line of scrimmage, and that's playoff style football.

"No matter what happens around you, if you can win the battle of the trenches and get pressure on the quarterback, you make them do things they don't want to do.

"We went into this game in attack mode, and I think we did a good job with that on the offensive line and defensive line."

The Sun and Westshore Rebels close out the regular season Next Saturday in Victoria, in a game that will decide first place in the BCFC, and home field advantage throughout the league playoffs.

Sun earn home playoff date

The Okanagan Sun have guaranteed themselves at least one home playoff date.

The Sun ran their unbeaten record to 7-0-1 Saturday night with a 20-10 victory over the Broncos in Kamloops.

The win, coupled with Langley's loss to the Westshore Rebels, means the Sun can finish no lower than second.

Kamloops got on the board first Saturday with the only points of the opening quarter. After Isaac Wegner hit the up right on a field goal try, the Broncos marched down the field and got a field goal of their own.

A pair of field goals in the second quarter put the Sun up for the first time before Keith Zyla hit Nate Anderson with a touchdown pass to give the Sun a 13-3 lead at the half.

The Broncos cut the deficit to three with a pair of field goals and a conceded single by the early stages of the fourth quarter.

A second touchdown to Anderson closed out the scoring.

Anderson now has four touchdown receptions on the season, tied for the team lead with Shamar Donalson.

The Sun will host the Langley Rams next Sunday afternoon before closing out the regular season the following weekend in Victoria, a game that will determine who captures the BCFC regular season title.



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