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.


Sun welcome familiar face

What is already a lethal receiving corp just got more dangerous after the Okanagan Sun welcomed back a familiar face.

Receiver Rashaun Simonise returned to the club during the bye week to add one more weapon to an already stacked set of receivers available to quarterbacks Keith Zyla and Nick Wenman.

Simonise came to the Sun last September following a tryout with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

In three regular season and one playoff game, he caught 12 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown.

The now 22-year-old will join a receiving group with three players in the league's top 10.

Nate Anderson leads the league in receptions (25) and yards (419). He also has two touchdowns.

Kyler Mosley is fourth in yards with 295 while Liam Crane is 10th with 190 yards receiving.

Simonise, a former University of Calgary Dino, also had a role in the return game last season, with 6 kick returns and 13 punt returns, averaging 20.5 yards per return on kickoffs, and 7.4 yards on punts.

While he joined the club during the week, it's not clear whether he will make his 2017 debut when the Sun open the second half of the season at the Apple Bowl Sunday against the VI Raiders.

The Sun should also have Zyla available Sunday afternoon.

The starting quarterback was injured during a week one victory over the Westshore Rebels and has not played since.

During his absence, Nick Wenman has guided the team to four straight wins, the latest, a 45-11 thrashing of the Raiders two weeks ago in Nanaimo.

The Sun kick off the second half of the season atop the BCFC standings with a perfect 5-0 record. The Rebels sit at 4-1 with the Raiders 3-2.

Sunday's game kicks off at 1 p.m.

Sun hit the break perfect

The Okanagan Sun hit the midway point of the BC Football Conference on a high.

The Sun improved to 5-0 Saturday with a convincing 45-11 victory over the Vancouver Island Raiders on Nanaimo.

Isaac Wegner kicked the Sun to a 7-0 first quarter lead with field goals from 30 and 12 yards, while punter Matthew Panattoni booted a single.

The defence doubled the lead early in the second quarter when Aldrich Barrios intercepted his fifth pass in just over quarters of football, and returned it for a touchdown.

Barriors had four interceptions the previous week against Chilliwack.

The Raiders cut into the lead with a field goal following a partially blocked punt.

Any momentum the Raiders may have gained was snuffed out when Javen Kaechele returned the ensuing kickoff 1-5 yards to put the Sun up 21-3.

A Raiders single made it 21-4 at the half.

The score stayed that way until the first play of the fourth quarter when Raiders pivot Jake Laberge hooked up with Brycen Mayoh from 25 yards out to cut the deficit to 21-11.

That's as close as the Raiders would get.

The offence finally put some point on the board when  Nick Wenman connected with Liam Crane. Crane caught a second touchdown pass and Conor Richard returned another interception for the Sun to put the game out of reach.

Wenger's third field goal closed out the scoring late in the game.

The Sun hit the Labour Day weekend break a perfect 5-0, a full game up on the second place Westshore Rebels. The Rebels went to 4-1 with a 51-13 pounding of the Valley Huskers.

The Raiders are at 3-2 while the Langley Rams sit in possession of the fourth and final playoff spot at the moment with a 2-3 record.

The Rams upended 1-4 Kamloops 31-19 Saturday.

The Sun lead the BC in both scoring and defence, putting up 205 points, while allowing just 50.

The Sun open the second half of the season against the same Raiders Sunday, Sept. 10, 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl.


Sun dismantle Huskers

There was never any doubt the Okanagan Sun would beat the Valley Huskers and beat them big.

All that was in doubt when the BCFC rivals met at the Apple Bowl Saturday was how big a margin the Sun would create, and whether the defence could pitch a shutout.

Massive, and no.

The Okanagan Sun found the end zone

The 3-0 Sun found the end zone nine times, six in the first half, in a 71-7 rout of the winless Huskers.

The Huskers came into the Apple Bowl without a win over the past two seasons plus. They had scored just eight points all season, and had been shutout the last two games.

Their only points Saturday came with the Sun nursing a 70-0 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The Sun scored 38 unanswered points in the second quarter, blowing open what was a close game to that point.

After Isaac Wegner missed a field goal to give the Sun a 1-0 lead, Nick Wenman, making his third straight start in place of injured Keith Zyla, connected with Nate Anderson to give the Sun an 8-0 lead.

The Sun put it away in a 2:01 span early in the second quarter.

Wenman hit Robbie Rodrigues on the first play of the second quarter. After Chilliwack coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff, Wenman found Spencer Schmidt. Wenman tossed his fourth TD pass seconds less than a minute later, hitting Liam Crane.

Kyler Mosley and Carter Gordon had rushing touchdowns sandwiched between a Wegner field goal for a 46-0 lead at the half.

Wegner drilled a short field goal on the opening drive of the third, then Ty Kitzman, who had interceptions in each of the first three games, took an interception back the distance for a 56-0 lead after three.

Backup running back Joseph Okenlola found the end zone twice to give the Sun an even 70. A conceded single late in the game closed out the scoring.

The Sun remain alone atop the BCFC standings with a perfect 4-0 record.

The VI Raiders and Westshore Rebels are a b=game back after both were winners Saturday.

The Raiders dumped Kamloops 51-10 while the Rebels upended the struggling Langley Rams 29-5.

The Sun travel to Nanaimo next weekend to face the Raiders before the league takes the Labour Day weekend off.

Sun roll late, stay perfect

The Okanagan Sun broke open a tight game with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter en route to a 34-17 win over the hometown Langley Rams.

It was a close contest for much of the game until the Sun took advantage of some big plays on defence, giving the offence a short field to work with.

Kelton Kouri ran in his second touchdown of the game and quarterback Nick Wenman called his own number for a second major late in the game to put the game out of reach.

The Rams put points up on the board first when Wayne Parker hit on a 36-yard field goal on Langley's first possession of the game. The drive was aided by a roughing the kicker penalty against the Sun.

Isaac Wegner put the Sun on even terms on the first play of the second quarter from 22-yards out.

Kouri ran in his first major of the game from two-yards out to give the Sun a 10-3 lead, one they would not relinquish.

After a punt block. the first of three on the night, the Sun drove the ball down the field where Wegner hooked up with Kyler Mosley to make it 17-3.

It looked like the Sun would take that lead into halftime until, on third down, quarterback Colby Peters hooked up with Khalik Johnson in the end zone with just seconds left on the clock.

It was the first touchdown the Sun defence has allowed since the first minute of the second quarter against Victoria two games ago - a span of 134 minutes.

The Sun clung to a 20-17 lead heading into the final quarter when the the defence and special teams took over.

After Kouri made it 27-17, Beck Fullerton picked off his first pass of the season and ran it back deep in Langley territory. Wenman went over from two-yards out to close out the scoring.

The defence intercepted a pair of passes, including Ty Kitzman's third in three games. They also forced a fumble on the opening kickoff.

The special teams group blocked three punts, giving them five blocks on the season, including four punts and a field goal try.

The Sun are now 3-0 on the young season. The Rams fall to 1-2, losing both games at home.

Kelowna return to the Apple Bowl next Saturday as the Valley Huskers come to town.

The Huskers fell to 0-3 Saturday, losing 40-0 to the VI Raiders, the second game in a row in which they have been shut out.

The Huskers have scored just eight points on the season, while the Sun defence has given up a stingy 32.

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