Sun dealt tough sked

Repairs to the Apple Bowl this summer will force the Okanagan Sun out of their home turf to start the 2018 BC Football Conference season.

The track is being replaced in August, meaning the facility will be unavailable to the Sun for the entire month, forcing the club to play it's first four games away from home.

They won't play their home opener until Saturday, Sept. 8 against the Langley Rams.

Prior to that, it's trips on consecutive weekends in August to Kamloops, Westshore, Chilliwack and Langley.

"I don't like that schedule at all, but there are people that are saying if we can get five out of our last six games at home, that's great," said team VP and general manager Jay Christensen.

After the bye week on the Labour Day long weekend, the Sun will play consecutive home games against Langley, the VI Raiders and Chilliwack before closing out at home with Kamloops and Westshore.

"The other issue is, from a business standpoint, we don't get any gate revenue, but we have four road trips and one to the island."

One major change this season will see the Sun play four of their five home dates on Saturday evenings. The lone exception, a Sunday matinee against the Broncos Oct. 7.

Traditionally, the club has played Saturday evening in August and Sunday afternoon following Labour Day.

"There are a number of reasons. One of the island games, that's the only time the team could get here and back properly," said Christensen.

"We wanted to stay away from the NFL crowd, get more minor football players available and alumni that play touch football. We're hoping to get some data to see what works better."

Christensen said the coaching staff like the Saturday games, especially closer to playoff time when the club has run into situations where the Sun play Sunday but their next opponent had a Saturday game giving them an extra day to prepare.

Playoff begin the weekend of Oct. 20-21. The BCFC champion will host the Ontario Conference champs Nov 3, with the winner of that game going on to the national final Nov. 17 at the home of the Prairie Conference champion.


New voice leads offence

The Okanagan Sun will have a new voice calling the plays from up above next season.

Johannes Van Leenen has been named the team's new offensive co-ordinator for the 2018 season.

Van Leenen replaces Mike Wolthuiezen, who called the plays the past two seasons.

“I am very excited to accept a greater role with the Okanagan Sun as offensive co-ordinator. The Sun have a track record of excellence proven year-after-year, representing top talent across Canada,” said Van Leenen.

 “I look forward to continue coaching as part of this rich tradition and look forward to many successful years ahead.”

Van Leenen came to the Sun last season after 17 seasons with the football program at Henry Wise Wood Hiugh School in Calgary. He served as running backs coach last season.

“Johannes will bring a ton of energy onto the field, and will be a valuable piece of our recruiting team off of it,” said head coach Ben Macauley.

“I’m looking forward to working with him as he builds on the infrastructure set out by our previous offensive coaching staff.”

Sun scholarship fund grows

The Okanagan Sun's scholarship fund has grown significantly.

The Sun announced this week the team, in partnership with Scotiabank, has made a $10,000 contribution toward player scholarships.

The club raised $5,000 through its annual Sunfest fundraiser. Scotiabank matched that amount.

“The Okanagan Sun are proud to be able to offer our athletes the opportunity to further their studies at Kelowna’s post-secondary institutions,” said Sun president Les Weiss.

“This wouldn’t be possible without the continued contributions from the team at Scotiabank, along with the year-in, year-out support from our fans and community partners.”

Since its establishment in 2011, the scholarship fund has helped more than 100 former players continue their education off the football field.


Sun coach staying on

Ben Macauley will patrol the sidelines for the Okanagan Sun for at least one more season.

The Sun announced late Wednesday the BCFC team and Macauley have agreed to a one-year contract extension.

It will be his third season as head coach.

During his first two seasons, Macauley has guided the Sun to a 15-4-1 regular season record and back-to-back playoff appearances.

The Sun lost in the league final to Victoria in his first year and fell at home to the VI Raiders in the semi-final this past season.

“I’m excited to be back to work with this team,” said Macauley. “I think we’re just at the start of something great, and this season really will be a chance to put our mark on the league. 2018 will be our best year yet.”

The head coach is on the prairies on a recruiting trip as he, and the club look ahead to the 2018 season.

“We’re pleased to have extended Ben’s contract for the 2018 season. His hard work and dedication is evident when you look at all the young talent he was able to assemble last season, and we believe the organization is in good hands moving forward,” said club president Les Weiss.

Macauley took over as head coach after the departure of Shane Beatty at the end of the 2015 season.

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.

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