Eli Haynes and the Okanagan Sun will look to chase down Maximilian Joseph and the hometown Kamloops Broncos Saturday in BCFC action. -Image: Douglas Farrow/Contributor

Sun keeps foot on pedal for stretch run

With three games remaining, Sun may be headed for season-ending, first-place showdown with Rebels

Ben Macauley and his Okanagan Sun have so far resisted the temptation to look ahead to the final game of the regular season in Victoria against the Westshore Rebels.

Still, if the pecking order in the BCFC standings doesn’t change before Saturday, Oct. 7, then that game will ultimately decide first place in the conference.

With three weeks remaining, the Sun (6-0-1) leads the defending champion Rebels (6-1-0) by a single point for top spot.

“I think that’s good for us,” Macauley said of a potential season-ending match-up for first against Westshore. “That means the playoffs will just start a week early for our guys. We want to be competitive heading into the post season and having something on the line will certainly be motivation for us.

“Right now, it’s not about winning first place, it’s about doing our jobs and getting better each week,” he added. “Taking a loss at this point of the season would be a step backwards. Whatever situation we end up in, we’ll prepare to deal with it.”

But it’s first things for first for the Sun who have three games remaining, including this Saturday in Kamloops against the Broncos (1-6). Okanagan will also have to take down the Langley Rams (4-3-0) on Oct. 1 at home for the season finale to still carry meaning.

In addition to fine-tuning over the final stretch of the regular season, the Sun will be in evaluation mode as Macauley and his staff look to settle on their 40-man postseason roster.

“We have a few guys left to give an opportunity to show us what they can do, see how they respond as we look to complete our roster for the playoffs,” Macauley said of about five to 10 players who are on the bubble for the postseason. “For the guys who don’t make it, that’s the tough reality, a tough pill for them.

“We’ve been preaching that every player has a role,” he added. “We need to show appreciation for those guys who are going to sit out, because they’re just as important to the team.”

The Sun gave plenty of reps to their second and third stringers on Saturday in Chillwack in 42-3 victory over the winless Valley Huskers.

Keith Zyla returned to the starter’s role at quarterback and fired four touchdown passes, including two to Rashaun Simonise. A former Calgary Dino and cut of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, the 6-foot-5 Simonese caught six passes for 82 yards in his season debut with the Sun.

He played in three games last year with the Sun, catching 12 passes for 265 yards and a T.D.

“He had a fantastic game,” Macauley said of Simonise. “He’s a big target where you don’t have to be quite as accurate, he’s tough to guard. He came in with a great attitude and has certainly added a big weapon to our offense.”

The Sun return home Sunday, Oct. 1 against the Langley Rams. Kick off at the Apple Bowl is 1 p.m.