Ben Macauley is understandably happy with his team’s 4-0 record to start the B.C. Football Conference season.
Still, not every step of the journey has been without some consternation for the first-year head coach of the Okanagan Sun.
While Macauley was satisfied with the final result of Saturday night’s 37-19 win over the Vancouver Island Raiders, he wasn’t entirely enamoured with the way the Sun arrived there—particularly with their lacklustre play in the first half.
“I think we were really flat to start, we played soft and we didn’t play with the intensity that you expect of the defending champs,” said Macauley. “We had some letdowns and gave up some big plays. Those are things we can’t afford to do going forward.”
The Raiders jumped on the Sun early for a 10-7 lead, before Okanagan began to turn the tide in the second quarter.
Sun linebacker Layne Hull picked off a Jacob Laberge pass, setting up Brendan Hansen’s six-yard run for a touchdown. Quarterback Foster Martens then connected with Liam Wishart on a nine-yard pass for a major score and the Sun was ahead to stay.
But V.I. refused to fold as quarterback Jacob Laberge and Dustin Rodriguez hooked up on a 79-yard pass and run play late in the second quarter to make it a 21-17 game.
Proceedings remained tight until the fourth quarter when, with the score 27-19, the Sun effectively put the game away with a big play on special teams. Conor Richard blocked a Raiders’ punt and Raquille Cespedes returned it 15 yards for the score.
“That was huge for us, a great effort by Conor and another key play by Raquille,” said Macauley.
Kicker Kealey Heintz was a big contributor to the Sun cause with 13 points on three field goals and four extra points.
As for the Sun offense, Martens said despite some bouts of inconsistency, the pieces are gradually falling into place.
“It’s a process, but I think we’re starting to find our groove,” said Martens who completed 15 of 23 passes for 200 yards. “There a lot of new faces, some of the coaches are new, it all takes time. We have to to be patient, finding out what works, what fits well with our personnel. We have some great athletes and if we keep working we’ll get there.”
Coming off an emotionally-charged win over the Westshore Rebels the previous week, Macauley conceded the letdown early in Saturday’s game wasn’t totally unexpected.
The challenge now is to turn the page and refocus for Saturday night’s game against the Kamloops Broncos.
“We knew (the Raiders) were going to come out hard, and the message is we can’t be basing everything on what we did last game,” he said. “It was a wake-up call for us, that’s as close to a loss as you want to get.
“I feel like our guys will be on a mission, to prove we were better than what we showed against (Raiders),” Macauley said. “Kamloops was able to put up some points against Westshore (45-32), so we have to be prepared for that.”
Kick off Saturday night at the Apple Bowl between the Sun and Broncos is 7 p.m.
Hull, Heintz honoured…
Sun linebacker Layne Hull and kicker Kealey Heintz have picked up BCFC player of the week awards thanks to their performances in Saturday’s win over the Raiders.
Hull, 22, the top defensive player, had a well-rounded game with an interception, a sack, a knockdown, a tackle and an assisted tackle.
Heintz, the Sun’s first year kicker is the special teams player of week after he connected on three field goals in three attempts, kicked four converts, punted seven times for a 36-yard average and kicked off eight times for a 49.9-yard average.