What Ben Macauley saw in his first game as a head coach in the B.C. Football Conference wasn’t perfect, but then again he was under no illusions that it would be.
Despite a tentative start, the Okanagan Sun had more than enough in their arsenal to overpower the Valley Huskers 56-14 Saturday night in Chilliwack to kick off the 2016 season.
And other than what he considered far too many penalties—17 for 175 yards—Macauley was generally pleased with his club’s effort.
“I thought it was a good first week for us, we’re about where I thought we’d be, ” said Macauley. “We made some mental errors, and some assignment errors you kind of expect this time of year. We did have some problems with conduct (17 penalties) rather than just missing assignments, so we do need learn how to lead properly, to play with more controlled chaos.
“But I thought our effort level was really high,” he added. “That really came through in those defensive touchdowns we scored.”
The Sun defence scored three majors against the Huskers, all on interception returns. Defensive backs Beck Fullerton (70 yards) and Jamie Turek (40 yards), and defensive lineman Elias Rodriquez (70 yards) all found the end zone.
While the head coach thoroughly applauded the TD by Rodriguez, on a tipped ball, Macauley ended up paying for it—literally.
“When I was working with the D-line, I promised them a meal out for whoever scored a touchdown,” Macauley said with a laugh. “Elias might hold this one over on me for a few weeks. But you know, if that’s all it takes, then I don’t mind at all. Maybe the whole team can chip in and we can get more plays like that.”
Foster Martens and Keith Zyla split the quarterbacking duties, with Zyla completing all four passes he attempted for three touchdowns—one each to Liam Wishart (63 yards), Shamar Donelson (30 yards) and Nathaniel Anderson (74 yards).
Martens, who started the game, rushed for 34 yards and scored a major on a physical, punishing 26-yard run.
“I think both guys played well,” said Macauley, who has yet to name a No. 1 pivot. “We were slow to get going and that was pretty evident, but Foster handled it well. He’s a tough guy, on his touchdown he broke a bunch of tackles, shook some guys off and really made something out of a broken play.
“(Keith) Zyla did exactly what we asked him to do,” added Macauley. “Our offence is well suited to Keith, he took what the defence gave him and he made the plays he needed to, With those two guys, it sure gives us a lot to work with.”
Kasey Russell scored the Sun’s other major while Kealy Heintz booted all eight extra points.
With their first win in the bag, Macauley and the Sun are now preparing for the Kamloops Broncos on Saturday night at Hillside Stadium.
The following weekend, the club’s home opener should generate a buzz when former Sun coach Shane Beatty brings his Westshore Rebels to the Apple Bowl on Aug. 6.
Still, Macauley insists his club’s sole focus this week is on Kamloops.
“We’re not looking at anything but this week, we’re focusing on the task at hand,” said Macauley. “(Kamloops coach) Brad Yamoaka is doing a good job up there and will have him guys ready. We need to do the same.”
Macauley said the Sun is excited to welcome all-Canadian defensive lineman Jonas Gering back into the lineup on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Gering decided to return to the BCFC club for his final season after considering playing in the CIS for UBC.
The 22-year-old Kelowna product sat out the Sun’s first game with injury, but will be ready for the Broncos.
“One of the biggest things is his experience and leadership,” Macauley said of Gering’s importance to the Sun. “He understands both the team and the league and will play a really key role for us. On top of that, he’s a large, intimidating force who’s difficult to block. Jonas just adds to an already loaded defense we have.”