Make or break year for Sun

Call it what you like, boom or bust, make or break.

Either way, 2018 is an important season for the Okanagan Sun.

No more excuses, says head coach Ben Macauley.

He says the team is going to do everything it can to win.

"We're going to do it the right way, but we're not going to hold anything back. We'll say what we think and do what we feel will put us in the best position," said Macauley.

He says the goal is to compete at the highest level.

"Our community, our city, our board, our supporters, our sponsors, expect us to take this next step.

"We're investing a lot of time, money and energy into this season, and it's not a pass or fail, but we do expect to have a high level of success. There's not going to be a pass we've been given the last few years based on injuries or our newness to the program."

A lot of that investment has come in recruiting players the team believes can take them to the next level.

Two of those, quarterback Jakob Loucks and defensive end Nicholas Dheilly, are among the top recruits in the country.

"Not to take anything away from the rest of our class, but these two guys are kind of our marquee guys and are established. They have not just played, but been quite successful at the top level of amateur sport in Canada."

Loucks comes to the Sun after two seasons as a starter with the Mount Allison Mounties. He was U-Sports rookie of the year in 2016.

Dheilly, who comes to the Sun from the University of Regina Rams, was named the team's defensive player of the year last season and was a Canada West all-star.

While those two head a strong recruiting class, Macauley says he believes the biggest improvement this season will come along the offensive line.

"We think we have the depth there now to compete well into October. Last year we were moving guys from defence to offensive and doing it with patchwork.

"Not to say those guys didn't do a great job of adapting, but this year we will have some of the best offensive linemen in the country."

Macauley says the line should be anchored by 6-foot-7, 325-pound Daniel Townsend from the University of Calgary.

"He's a true university starter, and that makes a big difference."


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.

More BCFC articles


Recent Trending



Cover your team's games! Write up a story and email us [email protected] for publication here.

Previous Stories

Castanet Proud Member of RTNDA Canada