With new coach Shane Beatty at the helm, the Okanagan Sun hoped the on-field results would be considerably better in 2013.
Halfway through the new campaign, the B.C. Football Conference club couldn’t have asked for a much more dramatic turnaround.
In addition to sitting in top spot, the Sun has also recorded wins over the last two BCFC champs—the Vancouver Island Raiders and Langley Rams.
Although a little too close for comfort, the Sun held off the defending champion Rams (4-1) for a 29-28 victory Saturday night at the Apple Bowl to push their record to 4-1.
Pending the appeal of an overturned win earlier this season, the Sun could end up being a perfect 5-0.
“Obviously it feels really good,” said Beatty. “The kids are buying in, they’re understanding the team concept and I think the program is headed in the right direction. I’m proud of everybody for the work they’ve put in.”
On Saturday, three touchdown passes by Theo Deezar—two to Jesse Kendall and one to Zach Regert—helped spot the Sun to a seemingly insurmountable 29-0 third-quarter lead.
But a furious fourth-quarter rally and four touchdowns by the Rams’ offense made for a nail-biting conclusion.
When a 52-yard field goal field attempt by Langley in the dying seconds fell short, so did the Rams’ comeback bid.
Despite the Sun’s second half swoon, Beatty was happy with both his club’s effort and the final result.
“Whether you win by 29 points or by one, the getting the W is all that matters,” said Beatty. “You knew Langley was going to get their points, they’re just too good of a team. If we’d have won 29-0, I think the guys maybe would have been a little overconfident from that. This way, we’re going to learn some things about what went wrong and work on those.”
Sun defensive back Robbie Yochim had another strong night, returning kicks and picking off two passes. The Rutland grad leads the BCFC with five interceptions.
As for the key to his young club’s success this season, Beatty said veteran leaders and newcomers alike have both played vital roles.
“With a young group like we have, the learning curve was a big one and, to be honest, I’m surprised at how quickly they’ve picked it up,” he said. “We’ve had phenomenal leadership too from our 22-year-old guys, players like Tommy Howes, Jack Rush and JT (Fernandez) have been awesome.”
The Sun now have a week off before returning to action Sept. 7 when they travel to Nanaimo to face the Vancouver Island Raiders
Meanwhile, an arbitrator is currently studying an appeal by the Sun to reverse a decision made earlier this month by the BCFC.
The league overturned the Sun’s season-opening victory over Chilliwack due to an ineligible player.