Sun soar to the penthouse

It wasn't that long ago when the Okanagan Sun were struggling just to stay in touch with the leaders in the BC Football Conference.

A team with high expectations was stumbling to find its way. They lost to the Langley Rams at home, falling to 2-2-1, well back of the VI Raiders and Valley Huskers who shared the league lead at 4-1.

Oh, how times have changed.

The Okanagan Sun have, at times, been both dominant and opportunistic in reeling off three straight - the latest, a 47-31 thumping of the VI Raiders Saturday in Nanaimo.

And, they did it with backup Matthew Mahler at the helm. Mahler, who earlier in the season looked to be in over his head in place of injured starter Jakob Loucks, looked anything but with Loucks unable to go Saturday.

While his numbers don't jump off the page, 11 of 26 for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns, he made the plays when he needed to. He also ran five times for 17 yards and a touchdown.

It looked early like it might be the Sun who were blown out.

Mahler's first pass was intercepted, leading the the Raiders first touchdown of the game. On their next possession, VI kicked a field goal to go up 10-0.

But, the defence held from there until the offence found its footing. Isaac Wegner connected on an 18-yard field goal on the second place of the second quarter.

After a fumbled punt put the ball deep in Raider territory, Mahler connected with Adam Burton to tie it at 10-10.

The Raiders marched down the field on their next possession and, after Jake Laberge hit Mike West from 23 yards out, the Raiders were up again by seven.

They wouldn't get another sniff until it was too late.

Down 17-13, Tyler Goings picked off Laberge and dashed 54 yards to put the Sun up 2for good, 20-17. Mahler closed out the first half scoring with a seven yard strike to Kelton Kouri, a touchdown set up by a 49 yard pass play to Keith Zyla.

The Sun put it away early in the third when Nick Cross fell on a loose ball in the end zone, the result of a high snap on a third-down punt deep inside the Raiders end.

Wegner connected on field goals of 44 and 40 yards before Mahler ran one in himself to close out the Sun scoring.

The Raiders got two late touchdowns, but it was too little, too late.

The Sun forced nine turnovers in the game, four interceptions, three fumbles and also held the Raiders on downs twice.

Saturday's win vaults the Sun into sole possession of top spot in the BCFC with a 5-2-1 record. The Raiders fall into a second place tie with the Valley Huskers, both at 5-3.

The Sun now control their own destiny. Wins in their final two games against the winless Kamloops Broncos and reeling Westshore Rebels, both at the Apple Bowl, would ensure a first place finish and home field advantage throughout the BCFC playoffs.

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