In the days following their demoralizing loss to the Langley Rams a year ago in the B.C. Football Conference final, every coach and veteran player on the Okanagan Sun made a pact—nothing would stop them from making amends in 2015.
On Sunday, the Sun made good on their vow with a convincing 54-0 drubbing of the Vancouver Island Raiders in the Cullen Cup championship at the Apple Bowl.
The BCFC champs are now preparing for a trip to Saskatoon next month to take on the Hilltops for the Canadian Bowl title.
Sunday’s lopsided win completed a dominant 12-0 romp through B.C. competition this season and served as a reward for the team’s unwavering commitment to common goal.
“We’ve been working our butts off, I don’t think we took more than three or four days off over the last 12 months, so it really showed,” said Sun quarterback Cam Bedore, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the final.
“The guys all did an amazing job and our coaches did a great job of preparing us. It really feels great.”
The win also ended 11 seasons of disappointment for the Sun organization which hadn’t won a provincial championship since 2004.
Head coach Shane Beatty, who took over the reins at the start of the 2013 season, said the Sun is back where it belongs.
“It means everything, this is where we’re supposed to be,” Beatty said of ending the title drought. “These kids worked tirelessly, I’m so proud of them. This is for the whole organization from top to bottom.
“There’s not a selfish kid over there of the 75 kids here,” Beatty said of his players. “That’s the nice thing about it.”
Still, as much as the B.C. championship was a much sought-after goal, the season won’t be complete unless the Sun can also claim the national title.
Graduating defensive star Brennan Van Nistelrooy said he and his teammates are hungry and motivated to take that one final step.
“This means the world to us, we’ve been trying a long time to get here,” Van Nistelrooy said of the B.C. title. “However it really doesn’t mean much unless we win it all in two weeks, so that’s our goal. We’ll celebrate this, but at the end of the day, we’re going to focus on the national final.”
In the Hilltops, the Sun will face a perennial powerhouse in junior football and the defending Canadian champions.
On paper, Beatty likes how his team matches up with the Prairie Football Conference champs, who have 17 national titles to their credit.
“Saskatoon is a different beast and so are we,” Beatty said. “We come out with a lot of speed, we have size on the O-line, they have size everywhere. We match up very well, our receivers against their defensive backs.
“We’ve gotta step their run, if we do that we’re rolling.”
The Sun will visit the Hilltops Saturday, Nov. 7 for the Canadian Junior Football League championship.