Veterans Tye Kitzman (middle) and James Harney are ready to kick off the BCFC regular season Sunday in Kamloops. -Image: Ken Reid/Greystoke Photography

Returning all-Canadian amped on 2018 Sun

Tye Kitzman and the Okanagan Sun will play their first four BCFC games on the road

Tye Kitzman had the kind of 2017 campaign that turned the heads of his junior football peers—opponents and teammates alike.

The 21-year-old Vernon product was an ominous and constant presence in the Okanagan Sun defensive secondary, delivering punishing hits, while making a league-leading six interceptions.

The end result for Kitzman was a unanimous nod as a B.C. Football Conference all-star, followed by all-Canadian recognition.

Still, following a loss to the Westshore Rebels last October, Kitzman’s resume was missing the most important entry of all—a Canadian championship.

With the talent and depth the Sun coaching staff assembled during an aggressive off-season of recruiting, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Kitzman likes the club’s prospects of challenging for a national title in 2018.

RELATED: All-Canadian honours for Sun duo

“I think this is one of the best, if not the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Kitzman, the fourth-year defensive back who made 37 tackles last season, second best on the Sun. “We have a lot of good young guys, some new guys with experience coming in, and really good group of veterans. Everybody’s excited to get going and start our run at a Canadian championship.”

Kitzman and the Sun will kick off their quest for a national crown this Sunday in Kamloops against the Broncos.

It’s the first of four straight road games to open the BCFC regular season, due to renovations to the track at the Apple Bowl.

The Sun won’t play its first home game until Sept. 8 and while it’s a long wait for the team’s players and fans, Kitzman thinks it just might work in the club’s favour.

“There’s nothing we can do about the schedule, so we need to deal with it the best we can,” said Kitzman. “There are pros and cons, we won’t have the home crowd for a while…but if we can build up some wins early, we’ll have five of our last six games at home, heading into the playoffs. That could be an advantage for us.”

As for the composition of this year’s club, head coach Ben Macauley said the Sun possesses depth all across the board, particularly in the trenches where both the offensive and defensive lines are loaded with grit and skill.

Still, as good as the Sun looks on paper and in practise, Macauley said the real test begins Sunday in Kamloops and in the subsequent weeks to follow.

“It’s been a long offseason, we’ve made a lot of key personnel decisions, and put together a team we really like, so now it’s time to test ourselves,” said Macauley. “It’s not a finished piece of work. There’s pressure for guys to step up now and do as expected, but we also expect to see some surprises, players who have been waiting for their turn to play big roles to step up.”

The Sun and Broncos will kick off the BCFC regular season Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

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