Last summer, the Okanagan Sun offered next to no resistance to the Langley Rams.
The defending B.C. Football Conference champs routed the Sun in all three meetings in 2012 by a cumulative score of 124-23.
A season later, a far better equipped and vastly more confident Sun squad will take to the field, as the Rams pay their lone visit of 2013 to the Apple Bowl on Saturday night.
“It’s night and day from last year to this,” said Sun offensive tackle Devon Kozar. “We’re going into this game knowing we’re one of the teams to beat in this league and so are (the Rams). It’ll be a good test for both teams to see where we stand in the BCFC. We’re confident and have the right attitude, so I think this will be a barnburner.”
The Rams (4-0) are unbeaten, while the Sun—pending an appeal with the BCFC—are at 3-1.
With significant changes to the coaching staff and on-field personnel during the off-season, the Sun is a markedly different ball club than the one that took it on the chin three straight times from Langley.
Kozar said the entire 2013 squad comes to the field each day with a purpose.
“The biggest differences are the discipline we have here now and all the work everybody puts in off the field,” added Kozar, 22. “The guys are all on the same page and are trying to do the right things. It’s a great group to be part of and we’re having a lot of fun.”
In the Rams, the Sun faces an opponent with an explosive offensive attack. Led by quarterback Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren and receivers Malcolm Williams and Dan English, Langley is averaging better than 50 points per game.
On the other hand, Okanagan has the BCFC’s stingiest defense, having allowed just 47 points all season.
Sun head coach Shane Beatty is excited to see the two sides go head-to-head.
“We’re going to have to be at our best to beat these guys, they’re the best team in the league right now,” said Beatty. “But nobody’s invincible and we feel we’re just as athletic as they are. I think it’ll be a very hard-fought game and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t really close in the end.
“Their offense is very good and our defence has been great, so that should be a really good matchup,” he added.
Kick off between the Sun and Rams on Saturday night is 7 p.m.
Sun awaits decision
It could be September before the Sun hears a decision on its appeal with the B.C. Football Conference.
The Sun is disputing a ruling by the BCFC earlier this month which overturned Okanagan’s 65-10 win over the Chilliwack Huskers on July 27.
The league disciplined the Sun for the use of an ineligible player, Curtis Kelly, in the team’s season opener.
The Sun quickly appealed the decision which is now in the hands of an arbiter.
“We don’t want this to carry on too long, we’re hoping it gets resolved because it’s an ongoing distraction,” said Sun GM Jay Christensen. “We’re confident this will get overturned and we will get the win back.”
Christensen said the Sun agrees with the BCFC in regards to the ruling itself, but not with the degree of the penalty.
The Sun is currently 3-1 on the season, but woulds regain a fourth win if the decision is overturned.
Rush player of week
Sun safety Jack Rush is the BCFC’s defensive player of the week for the second time this season. The 5-foot-11, 190 pound Rush made five tackles, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and made a pair of interceptions in Okanagan’s 23-8 victory last Saturday over the Kamloops Broncos.
Shott with Lions
Ex-Sun kicker Steven Shott is back with the B.C. Lions. The 23-year-old North Vancouver native has been added to the club’s practise roster as a potential backup to current Lions’ kicker, Paul McCallum.
The 6-foot-4 Shott attended the CFL team’s 2013 training camp before being released during the pre-season.