Since suffering a first-round playoff loss a year ago, assembling then guiding his team to a national championship has been Shane Beatty’s driving ambition.
Now his Okanagan Sun is just a win away from the club’s first appearance in Canada’s junior football final in a decade.
On Sunday afternoon, the Sun will host the Langley Rams in the B.C. Football Conference championship, with the winner playing host to the Canadian Bowl early next month.
After losing the first meeting between the teams back on Aug. 2 in Langley, the Sun was a convincing winner in each of the last two meetings at the Apple Bowl—31-10 and 37-20.
With a clear edge in play and home field advantage on their side, most observers are expecting an Okanagan victory on Sunday afternoon.
But you won’t find Shane Beatty overlooking the Rams—one of the BCFC’s top teams, year in, year out.
“Langley has a great coach (Jeff Alamalhoda) and a great program,” said Beatty, the Sun’s second-year head coach. “They’re loaded on offense, they have some great players on defense. This is going to be a barnburner, the fourth time we’ll meet.
“It could go either way, but there won’t be a letdown on our part, the kids understand what we have ahead of us.”
The Rams’ trip to the Cullen Cup final wasn’t as neat and tidy as they had hoped, as Langley barely held off the Kamloops Broncos 48-46 in last weekend’s conference semifinal.
The Sun, on the other hand, left little doubt about their dominance with a 47-16 victory over Vancouver Island Sunday at the Apple Bowl. It was Sun’s fourth straight win over the Raiders this season and first playoff triumph since 2010.
Back for the second week following a concussion, quarterback Cam Bedore was on target throwing long touchdown passes to Thomas Huber and Lerone Robinson. Alex Bradley and Dillon Fortune tore off big runs along the ground for majors, while Elias Rodriguez recovered a fumbled punt for a TD.
The Okanagan defence was again dominant, only yielding touchdowns late in the second and fourth quarters.
Based on the team’s play in the weeks leading up to and including Sunday’s win, Bedore said the Sun’s game is coming together nicely at the right time of year.
“We put together a full game (Sunday) and I think we’re firing on all cylinders,” said Bedore who was 12 of 18 for 226 yards. “I don’t know if we’ve peaked just yet but I’d say we’re very close to rising to that. Just a couple of more practises this week and I think we could be there.”
Still, as smooth as the ride has been for the Sun over the last several weeks, veteran defensive back Brennan Van Nistelrooy said he and his teammates need to focus on the task at hand—just as they have done all season.
“It’s good to come out with confidence, but we know we can’t come out cocky against Langley because they’re an unbelievable team,” Van Nistelrooy said. “We’re playing well, too, so it should be a good game next week.”
Kick off for the BCFC final between the Sun and Rams Sunday at the Apple Bowl is 1 p.m.
The winner will host the Prairie Football Conference champion in the Canadian Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 8.