Sun waste point, lose QB

It's hard to know what will hurt more, squandering a single point in a game they should have won, or the potential loss of their starting quarterback.

A wide field goal in the dying seconds and a decision to take an earlier field goal off the board contributed to the 18-18 tie against the Westshore Rebels Saturday in Langford.

But, it's the severity of an injury to Jakob Loucks that could be felt far into the season.

Loucks took a hard hit in the dying moments of the first half, and didn't return, leaving backup Matthew Mahler and a stifling defence to manage a 12-3 halftime lead.

It was the defence and special teams that gave the Sun their halftime advantage.

Isaac Wegman opened the scoring midway through the opening quarter with a 41-yard field goal after the Rebels were stuffed on third and one on their own side of midfield.

The Sun defence came up big again on the next series, forcing the Rebels to punt from deep in their own end. Conor Richard blocked the punt, setting up goal-to-go at the Westshore one.

Loucks walked in on the next play to put the Sun up 10-0.

A Rebels field goal on the final play of the quarter and a conceded safety in punt formation early in the second put the Sun up 12-3 going into the break.

The lead grew to 11 when the Rebels again decided to concede a safety instead of punting out of their end zone.

On their next possession, the Sun drove downfield on the feet of running back Jesse Amankwaa and a roughing the passer penalty.

When the drive stalled, Wegner came in and hit on a 30-yard field goal. But, Westshore was penalized and, instead of taking the sure three, the Sun rolled the dice in hopes of getting more.

They moved inside the Rebels five, but consecutive sacks brought Wegner back onto the field. After a high snap, the kick sailed wide, giving the Sun just a single and a 15-3 lead.

On the ensuing drive, the Rebels stalled deep inside Sun territory, forcing a field goal try. The snap was botched, but the Rebels were able to recover and complete a pass to the Sun two.

After a penalty and incompletion, Mason Brown hit Cody Holmes from 17 yards out to cut the deficit to 15-10 after three.

The teams exchanged safeties early in the final quarter then, with the Sun driving inside Rebels territory and time winding down, Mahler was hit and lost the ball.

Lineman Lowhya Lako scooped it up and rumbled 66 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, giving the Rebels at 18-17 lead with 2:42 to go.

After the Sun were forced to punt, the Rebels were unable to run out the clock, and were also sent into punt formation.

For the second time in the game, the Sun blocked the kick and took over inside the Rebels 35 with a little more than a minute to go.

The Sun drove the ball to the 13, setting Wegner up for a 21-yard attempt. The field goal sailed just to the left and through the end zone, giving the Sun the single point and the 18-18 tie.

Unofficially, first-year defensive lineman Nicholas Dheilly (pron: day-lee) tied a team and league record with five quarterback sacks in the game.

Richard also had a pair of sacks to go along with his blocked punt as the Sun defence created havoc all night.

The Sun road odyssey continues next Saturday when they face the Huskers in Chilliwack.

After an opening week upset of the VI Raiders, the Huskers returned to earth with a thud, losing 42-9 to the Langley Rams.

The Raiders dumped Kamloops 42-0 in the other game, meaning there are no undefeated teams after the second week for the first time in recent memory.


Sun face island test

The Okanagan Sun have not had much success lately when travelling to the provincial capital.

Regardless to time of year, or how each team is playing, the Westshore Rebels seem to find a way to take down the Sun.

The Sun will try and change all that when the two teams square off for the first of two meetings this season tonight.

Over the past two seasons, the home team has been able to prevail. Sun head coach Ben Macauley believes breaking that string this weekend could come down to good game preparation.

"I think we've done a good job this year of having a full, detailed game plan for four quarters of football. I think we are more flushed out when it comes to depth," he said.

"We certainly have more bodies, and we think our second level is good enough to be starters in most programs. I think that will make a difference. When you get into a good, physical game, you have guys go down with injuries, so being able to plug in another guy and have the second string ready to go will make a difference."

Both teams enter the game off winning 2018 debuts.

The Rebels were 19-16 winners over the Langley Rams, while the Sun easily handled the Kamloops Broncos 56-6, an outcome which allowed the Sun to rest most of their starters in the second half.

The stifling Sun defence allowed just 38 total yards while a balanced attack amassed 209 yards through the air and the same on the ground.

With so many talented new bodies in key positions, Macauley spread the workload around in Kamloops.

Ten different players carried the ball while eight players saw at least one reception.

Macauley says a lot of that was by design, to get a few players who came into camp just under the wire a chance to see the ball.

Expect that to to change moving forward.

"With so many new faces and guys stepping into new roles, we kind of have to test them out and see what they're like under live game situations.

"You'll probably see more of a defined depth chart and a clear starter going forward at most positions, but style of play and varied ways of attack won't change."

One of those new bodies, quarterback Jakob Loucks came as advertised. In just a half of work, he completed eight of 13 for 137 yards eight times for another 50 yards and a touchdown.

But, it's his style of running that did cause some concern with the coaches. He tends to initiate contact rather than get to the ground to avoid contact.

Macauley says he has spoken to his quarterback about picking his spots.

"I don't want him to change his style, but I do want him to be a bit more thoughtful of when, and which battles to choose."

Saturday's game is the second of four straight on the road to open the season for the Sun. They don't play their home opener until September while the city repairs the Apple Bowl track.

A Sun 'Loops'-sided opener

The Okanagan Sun put their highly touted recruit class on display in their BC Football Conference opener Sunday in Kamloops.

But, it was three returning veterans who stole the show in a 56-6 romp of the Broncos.

While the newly retooled offence took a quarter to get untracked, veteran defensive back Tye Kitzman showed why he is one of the league's best.

Kitzman, who picked off six passes in 2017, including one for a touchdown, picked up where he left off with a pick-six late in the opening quarter, to put the Sun up 7-0.

Kelton Kouri scored a pair of touchdowns, on through the air and one on the ground, during a dominant second quarter.

Linebacker Conor Richard returned a third quarter kickoff for another Sun major, and stripped the punter from the ball during a punt attempt, giving the Sun the ball on the Broncos one.

Taking its cue from the defence, the offence started rolling, putting up points on its next five possessions.

After a poor punt gave the Sun good field position at mid field, highly touted quarterback Jakob Loucks needed just four plays to find the end zone, hitting Kouri on a 19-yard strike on the opening play of the second quarter. The drive was capped by Loucks' 26 yard scamper.

After Richard stripped the punter of the ball on the one, Loucks snuck over on the next play to put the Sun 21-0.

Newly-signed running back Jesse Amankwaa found pay dirt from 12 yards out, before Loucks engineered another four-play drive, capped off by Kouri's second major, a six-yard run.

Isaac Wegner converted all five touchdowns and booted a 42-yard field goal to put the Sun up 38-0 at the half.

It could have been worse, but Loucks mishandled the snap on third -and-goal from the one on the final play of the half.

The first year pivot finished the half eight for 13 for 127 yards and the touchdown.

He gave way to second-year quarterback Matthew Mahler, who directed the team during the second half, as most of the starters gave way to the second team over the final 30 minutes.

Mahler engineered one scoring drive, hitting rookie receiver Cole Stround with a late fourth quarter strike.

The lone bright spot for the Broncos came midway through the third quarter when veteran Kurtis Mutschmann stripped Mahler of the football and rambled in for a touchdown. The two-point convert was not successful.

Richard made sure the momentum would not swing, taking the ensuing kickoff all the way to the house, putting the Sun up 48-6.

In other first week action, the Valley Huskers snapped a 31-game losing streak spanning three-plus seasons, upsetting the VI Raiders 33-31 in Chilliwack.

The Huskers scored 30 unanswered points, including 21 in the final quarter in a thrilling 33-31 upset of the reigning BCFC champion VI Raiders.

The Westshore Rebels opened the season Saturday with a 19-16 win over the Langley Rams.

The Sun get an early season test next weekend when they travel to Victoria to face the always tough Rebels.

Sun ready for season

After 18 straight days of beating up on friends and teammates, the Okanagan Sun finally get to feast on some fresh meat.

The Kamloops Broncos will serve as the opposition when the Sun kick off the new season Sunday afternoon in Kamloops.

Despite the extended training camp and practice schedule, head coach Ben Macauley doesn't expect the team to show any sign of fatigue heading into the season opener. He says the coaching staff hasn't been pushing the players too hard during practice.

With an exceptionally strong recruiting class under their belt, what is expected is one of the strongest teams the Sun have fielded in recent memory.

"There's no excuses now. We said we needed to get the bodies, and we got the bodies. Needed to get the talent and we got the talent. The last thing I guess is coaching, so I guess I better be doing that as well as I can," said Macauley.

The recruiting class includes several former university players, led by a pair of Mount Allison Mounties, quarterback Jakob Loucks and receiver Malcolm Miller.

"He's small (5'7"), but quick and incredibly fast," says Macauley of Miller.

Macauley expects players like Loucks and Miller to be key cogs in the Sun machine this season, not just for what they bring on the field.

He says the experience players bring from playing in big games, whether at the junior or university level will be one the the keys to the team's success this year.

"We'll be able to lean on our experienced guys and senior leadership.

"But also, our toughness, both physically and mentally. We've got a determined group. Physical attributes aside, there is a lot of mental toughness."

That leadership should also benefit the Sun in an area which has lacked the most the past few seasons — consistency, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

"That's probably something everyone struggles with. There are a number of factors in that and, one thing everybody struggles with is offensive line. You're only as good as your offensive line.

"We're now playing with guys who were highly recruited and keeping them here will be a task, so now we are in a situation where we have some newcomers and will focus on being consistent week over week and improving little things."

On the defensive side of the ball, Macauley has raved about lineman Jmin Pelley, who tips the scales at 6'6", 360 pounds.

"He's a real problem," said Macauley.

"We have difficulty blocking him everyday in practice, and I'm really happy with our offensive line. He'll make some waves."

Pelley will play alongside Nicholas Dheilly to provide what the Sun hope is a deadly one-two punch.

With the Apple Bowl closed for the month of August in order to repair the running track, the Sun will be forced to open with four straight games on the road.

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

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."

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