Frustrating loss comes with plusses for Sun
As always, the bottom line for the Okanagan Sun is earning two points each time the B.C. Football Conference club steps onto the field.
And while Gavin Lake's troops fell an agonizing hair short of that objective on Saturday in Nanaimo, a 30-29 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Island Raiders gave the Sun a clearer view of just what's possible in 2012.
As much as it pains the new head coach to swallow the loss, Lake sees more positives than negatives from a young club with 17 new starters in the lineup.
"In terms of where we came from and where we are now, we've taken another leap forward as a football team, and we'll continue to do so," said Lake. "We're close to a month in, we're now getting our rhythm and the guys are starting to gel. That was an inexperienced week 3 team against a team that is young, too but has won six B.C. titles. We feel like the direction we're heading in is sound."
The Sun (1-2) hung with the Raiders (2-0-1) from the opening whistle Saturday and looked poised to engineer an upset for their first win at Caledonia Park since 2005.
In the late stages of the fourth quarter, Sun linebacker Alexander Hupe picked off all-time BCFC passing leader Jordan Yantz to set his team up at the six-yard line.
Two unsuccessful running plays later, with the score 30-28, a potential game-winning field goal attempt from 10 yards out by third-year Sun kicker Steve McFadyen sailed wide left and yielded just a single point.
"I don't want to throw anyone under the bus," Lake said of the missed kick. "These are kids who don't get paid to play. We don't have Scott Norwoods (Buffalo Bills) who get paid millions of dollars.
"It was a week-3 kick in junior football. We'll have to look at that."
While Lake regretted a missed opportunity for two points, Raiders' coach Matt Blokker considered his club fortunate to escape with the win.
"We got lucky…" Blokker told the Nanaimo Bulletin. "Sometimes corny things happen in sports if you start believing and I think we really believed."
Luck and breaks aside, Lake had more complimentary than critical comments about his football team's effort.
Rookie quarterback Cam Bedore threw a trio of touchdown passes to Ben White, Bobby Davis and Jesse Kendall. Linebacker Alexander Hupe turned in a couple of big plays on defense returning a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and made one of three picks off Yantz.
Sun defensive lineman Steven Doege added two more sacks to his ever-growing career-leading total (36) and a forced a fumble.
"Offensively, we have to run the ball a little bit better," Lake said, looking ahead to future games. "Our offensive line did a really good job of protecting (Cam) Bedore. Jordan Yantz got hit a lot more than Cam and he threw three interceptions, so our defense did a pretty good job.
"We have to look at big picture," added Lake, "and this team is beginning to gel. The spirit is strong and it's a very good group we have."
The Sun will see just how much they've progressed since opening week this Saturday night when they battle the unbeaten Rams in Langley. The Rams were a 42-14 winner over the Sun in the Aug. 4 season opener at the Apple Bowl.
Okanagan's next home action is Saturday, Sept. 8 against the Westshore Rebels.