Sun battles Rams for ticket to final

Berth in BCFC championship on the line as Okanagan and Langley square off for the second straight game

Okanagan Sun receiver Shamar Donelson (right) and Rams defensive back Providence Ndizeye will meet again in the BCFC semifinal Sunday at the Apple Bowl.

Two weeks ago, there was plenty on the line as Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams met to decide second place in the B.C. Football Conference.

When the longtime rivals do battle again this Sunday afternoon at Apple Bowl, there will be considerably more at stake—the entire 2016 season.

The winner will earn a berth into the Cullen Cup final on the weekend of Oct. 29 and 30, and move to within a step of a berth in the Canadian Bowl.

After a convincing 44-24 victory for his Sun on Oct. 2, head coach Ben Macauley fully expects the Rams to return to Kelowna motivated and well prepared for the rematch.

Still, Macauley said the Sun will be focusing only on what his team can control.

“It’s important not to over think this,” said Macauley, “it’s easy to get caught up in what’s happened before, what the (Rams) are going to do next and the changes they’re going to make, but that doesn’t benefit us.

“We need to just analyze ourselves, be prepared to play and go out and execute,” he added. “They’re well-coached and will be playing with some desperation, it will be a more intense game, so we need to counter that.”

In a season that’s been much like a roller-coaster ride, the Sun clearly hope their recent upward trend will continue on Sunday.

Okanagan opened the season on a roll with six straight victories, before hitting the skids with a three-game losing streak, including a 58-2 thrashing at the hands of the Saskatoon Hilltops.

And as much as the slump was both unwelcome and disappointing, Macauley said his club learned some valuable lessons.

“We would have liked to learn those lessons while winning those games but that didn’t happen,” he said. “It showed us the things we needed to put work into, like discipline, and really put things into focus for us. In the long run, it was likely a good thing.”

As for playing Sunday’s game at the Apple Bowl in front of the hometown audience, Macauley said while it doesn’t guarantee victory, the supportive environment should provide a significant boost for his team.

“It’s great playing at home, we’re so excited to go out in front of our own fans and friends, it’s a really good atmosphere,” he said. “Any chance we get to play here, we want to make it a real positive experience.

“It’s great to sleep in our own beds, we love playing on our grass field…there’s no better place to play.”

Kick off between the Sun and Rams Sunday at the Apple Bowl is 1 p.m.

The other BCFC semifinal on Saturday has the Westshore Rebels at home to the Vancouver Island Raiders.

Vecchio, Horton all-stars…

The two main lynchpins of the Okanagan Sun’s offensive line have been cited for their exceptional play throughout the B.C. Football Conference regular season.

Lineman Michele Vecchio and Quinn Horton were named this week to the BCFC’s 2016 all-star team on offense.

Vecchio, a graduate of Rutland Senior Secondary, was named to the team for the third consecutive year.

Despite battling a number of injuries this season, Vecchio didn’t miss a game and was instrumental in protecting his quarterbacks and opening up holes for Sun running backs.

Horton, who was drafted this spring by the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, was in his first season with the Sun.

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Winnipeg native and former SFU lineman used his size and skill to regularly shutdown onrushing defensive linemen.