Jay Christensen has seen deep, talented and well-conditioned Okanagan Sun football teams in the past.
But few have exhibited a better blend of those qualities than the 2015 version of the B.C. Football Conference club.
The Sun has been nothing short of dominant this summer, compiling a perfect 6-0 record while outscoring its opponents by an eye-popping margin of 319-36.
Two of those wins, by a combined total of 84-23, have come against the defending champion Langley Rams.
The team’s general manager said the Sun is meeting and, in many cases, even exceeding expectations.
“We knew our defence was going to be good, with the leaders and athleticism we have, it doesn’t surprise me how well we’ve been playing on that side of the ball,” Christensen said. “Maybe a bit of a surprise are the number of points we’ve put up, so we’re very happy with the offense and special teams, too.
“You go into every year expecting to be successful,” he added, “but given that we’ve played Langley twice and the results we’ve seen in those games, you can’t ask for much more.”
Head coach Shane Beatty and the Sun have been on a mission since dropping a heartbreaker to Langley in last season’s conference championship in Kelowna.
With an exhaustive off-season of recruiting, Beatty Sun loaded up the Sun at pretty much every position—not just with numbers but with quality.
Christensen said the Sun’s depth in 2015 is second to none.
“Our strength is certainly depth, we’ve got guys all over the place in every area,” he said. “We’ve gone through some injuries and haven’t really missed a beat. One guy goes down, and it’s the next guy, quality football players coming in and doing a great job.
“With a lot of teams, you have a key guy, like at quarterback or a receiver go down and you have to change some things. With our depth and the athletes we have, Shane can just stick with the same plan.”
In addition to impressive contributions this season by newcomers Kyle Kawamoto, Shai Ross, Kent Lawrence and Jeremy Williams—among many others—Christensen points to the Sun’s veteran leadership group as a vital component of the team’s success.
Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Jonas Gering, Cliff Crews, Kyle Patchell along with quarterbacks, Josiah Joseph and Cam Bedore, are among a solid core of leaders who are setting the example.
“Our veteran leadership is the engine that really drives the team, that works hard all the time and lets the rest of the team know how to conduct themselves,” he said.
“It’s like junior hockey when you say your 20-year-olds have to show the way and be your best players. It’s the same with us, our older guys, 21 and 22, fourth and fifth years, have really been going a good job of that.”
So based on the first six games of the season and what remains ahead, no one could be blamed for expecting the Sun to put an end to their 11-year BCFC title drought this October.
Still, Christensen assures the Sun will be taking a step-at-a-time approach.
“There’s no doubt every season the goal is to win the last game,” Christensen said. “We haven’t done that in a while, so that’s the ultimate goal, a national championship. But right now, it’s refocusing on the nearer future, being ready to play each week and take it from there.”
Like the rest of the BCFC, this is a bye week for the Sun.
Okanagan returns to action Sunday, Sept. 13 at home to the Vancouver Island Raiders.
Kick off at the Apple Bowl is 1 p.m.
Van Nistelrooy honoured…
Sun defensive back Brennan Van Nistelrooy has been named the BCFC’s special teams player of the week.
The 22-year-old from Lethbridge blocked a kick Sunday in Langley resulting in a third quarter touchdown. It was the fifth blocked kick of Van Nistelrooy’s career, setting a new Sun record.
He also punted five times for 239 yards and added a single point.