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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