Like every team whose season ends prior to the championship game, the Okanagan Sun is reflecting this week on what might have been in 2014.
The Sun watched its B.C. Football Conference campaign expire prematurely on Sunday afternoon in Kelowna in a heart-stopping 23-19 loss to the Langley Rams in conference final.
Guided to a robust 9-1 regular season record and a first-round playoff win by head coach Shane Beatty, the Sun had its sights firmly set on the organization’s first BCFC crown since 2004.
But as Sun GM Jay Christensen had witnessed over the years—also as a head coach and player—even the best laid plans often don’t always produce the desired outcome.
“It was disappointing for everyone involved with the team, you always go into a season with expectations of winning a championship,” said Christensen. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but the way the season had gone and how close a group we had, obviously we were hoping for a different result.
“The goal is always to win a championship and when you don’t, you’re never truly satisfied.”
Still, even in defeat, Christensen doesn’t have to look far to find a multitude of positives from the 2014 season.
Between the team’s regular season record, the on and off-field growth of the players, and Shane Beatty’s work in building a competitive and cohesive roster, Christensen said the Sun took some considerable steps forward.
“This was one of the closer group of guys I’ve seen in all my time here,” said Christensen. “The growth of the guys was nice to see and the leadership group was outstanding.
“Obviously our record was very good and I think the depth we’ve built over the last couple of years is promising. One of Shane’s strengths is recruiting and that’s reflected in the depth. We already have a great jump on next year.”
Sunday’s game was the Sun’s first BCFC final appearance in four seasons and only their third home playoff game since 2010.
The Rams, meanwhile, have played in four consecutive BCFC final games—winning in 2012 and 2014. Big plays, mistakes and penalties aside, Christensen said big-game experience may have been the telling factor on Sunday.
“What struck me is that back when we were winning championships here, the players just expected that and really relied on their experience,” he said. “We haven’t had much of that the last few years. (Langley) has a number of players over there who have been through this several times and it may have worked in their favour.”
As is the case every season, a formidable group of players are graduating from the Sun.
Team MVP Robbie Yochim was among 11 players who suited up in orange and brown for the last time on Sunday.
“I thought this was going to be the year where I’d win a national championship, I guess it didn’t turn out that way,” said Yochim, who played five seasons with the Sun. “It’s tough…but life goes on. That’s about all you can say.”
In the meantime, the Rams will host the Saskatoon Hilltops in the Canadian Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 8.