By Marissa Tiel
It was a flop of playoff proportions and one they didn’t want to happen on their home field.
The Okanagan Sun fell 39-7 to the Langley Rams in the Cullen Cup final at the Apple Bowl Sunday afternoon.
“It’s frustrating considering we feel like we handed a lot of those points over to them in the first half,” said Sun head coach Ben Macauley. “Watching a team – any team – win on your field is frustrating. So it stings a little more when it’s in a championship game and we didn’t really put up much of a fight for most of it.”
A bank of clouds surrounded the field for the start of the match, but didn’t deter fans from attending. They marched into the stands with ponchos and fleece blankets.
The field was wet to start, with a sprinkling of rain coming down, but the clouds would soon part early in the match.
Macauley doesn’t believe the weather factored into the results, but the football was dropped a number of times in the first quarter.
The home team was marred by errors and penalties – nine of them, which cost the Sun 100 yards over the game. The defence was forced to play much of the game on a short field.
“I think some of the big game stuff got to the young guys,” he said. “We were on our third-string long-snapper and you can prepare a guy all you want and if he’s stressed out in a big game, and he makes an error like that, there’s not much you can do to change that. That’s frustrating and he’ll learn from that and we’ll learn from that.”
Langley’s defence was all over the Sun. The Sun recorded 105 receiving yards, while the Rams logged 238 yards. And the Rams all but shut down Okanagan’s running game, with the Sun only able to rush 95 yards.
With the Rams up 26-0 at halftime, head coach Howie Zaron said the hardest thing was keeping his team composed.
“You know, you have a lead like the way we did, just control the clock, control the ball, don’t turn it over, play solid special teams,” he said. “Even me as a coach, you’re thinking OK, we’ve got this. How do we smile, how do you feel good about yourself? You can’t. That’s the challenge, staying composed.”
Zaron was proud of the way Rams quarterback Duncan Little played.
“When you don’t turn the ball over against the Okanagan Sun, your chances of winning the football go up huge, huge,” he said.
Duncan completed 12 of 19 passes for 238 yards. Sun quarterback Matt Mahler was nine for 22, throwing 105 yards.
The Sun were held off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter, when running back Kouri sparked the offensive line, leading to the home team’s sole points of the game, a 26-yard touchdown from Peyton Price and a good convert from kicker Isaac Wegner.
“There’s a few guys who just keep fighting no matter what,” said Macauley. “(Kouri) made a move to salvage something in the fourth quarter there and he was running the ball well. He was playing with his heart and unfortunately, it was too little, too late.”
The loss stung for the Okanagan Sun, as the Rams lifted the Cullen Cup at the Apple Bowl.
But with just a handful of players graduating from the program, the future looks bright for a young Sun team.
“We’ve got a great young group who’s going to learn from this loss and hopefully never have to repeat that again.”
The Rams move on to the Canada Cup semifinal and will host Hamilton Hurricanes Nov. 3 in Langley. The winner will go on to meet Saskatoon Hilltops in the Canada Cup final.
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