With close to 35 newcomers in the lineup and the loss of no fewer than seven key starters from last season, there was some question about what characteristics would define the 2017 edition of Okanagan Sun.
After Saturday night’s come-from-behind win over the defending champion Westshore Rebels, head man Ben Macauley and his coaching staff are beginning to see their club’s identity take shape.
By climbing out of an early 14-0 hole and forcing seven turnovers en route to the victory, Macauley said the Sun showed persistence and resolve in the face of adversity.
“The guys were able to bounce back from a couple of early mistakes, their mettle was tested and they proved to be mentally tough,” said Macauley. “From beginning to end, there was really no change in demeanour, nobody was hanging their heads down.
“This is a fairly reserved team, not as vocal or as outward with their enthusiasm maybe as some others,” added Macauley, “but they show their toughness and character in different ways. It was good to see.”
Following a shaky start and a two-touchdown deficit, the Sun’s defense and special teams went on lock-down for the game’s final 44 minutes, allowing just one Westshore point.
Cole Klughart blocked a field goal, while Conor Richard partially blocked a punt—both plays were momentum changers leading to Sun touchdowns.
The Sun defense also recovered a pair of fumbles, picked off a pass and finished the night with four turnovers on downs.
“We had a goal of five turnovers and had seven, so we knocked that one out of the park,” said Macauley. “In a lot of cases, it was just flat out effort and hustle by our guys. (Special teams coach) Jamie Boreham did a good job of adjusting as the game went on and we made some big plays. That’s our brand of football, do the dirty work and get rewarded.”
Keith Zyla and Kyler Mosley scored Okanagan’s two majors on runs in the second quarter but the Sun was unable to generate much on offense in the first quarter or over the final 30 minutes.
With the Kamloops Broncos up next on Saturday night, Macauley would like to see both a better start and finish by his offensive unit.
“We definitely want to get more consistency on offense,” he said. “We know we have the ability and the plays in place, we just need to execute more effectively and need to make adjustments quicker.
“We want to jump on it sooner (against) Kamloops, dictate the game from start rather than playing catch-up.”
The Broncos (1-0) will be led into the Apple Bowl by one of the BCFC’s best pivots in Coby Henkel.
Kamloops is coming off a 41-8 victory over the Valley Huskers.
“They’re well-coached and definitely have some athletes,” said Macauley. “We feel we’ll be able to take advantage along the O and D lines. We’re pretty strong in both areas so we should have the edge.”
Kick off Saturday night at the Apple Bowl between the Broncos and Sun is 7 p.m.
Kitzman player of the week
Sun defensive back Tye Kitzman is the BCFC’s defensive player of the week.
The hard-hitting Vernon product had five tackles, one assist, one batted ball and a game-ending interception in Saturday’s win over the visiting Westshore Rebels.
Sun supports blood services
The Sun has partnered with Canadian Blood Services to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available to hospital patients in need this summer.
The team will help support the community by adopting the Kelowna blood donor clinic on Monday, Aug. 7. The group has also committed to recruiting new donors and filling appointments to help meet clinic collections.
“As a community run, and community driven organization, we are in great debt to those around us,” said coach Macauley.
“By adopting the Kelowna clinic for a day, we have a chance to give back to a community that supports us year round, on and off the field. On a personal level, we can each draw personal connections to family and friends who have benefited from the work of the Canadian Blood Services. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community.”
You can take part by making an appointment to give life at the Kelowna blood donor clinic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To discover all the ways you can help and to book your appointment, visit blood.ca.
For more information about adopting a clinic near you, visit blood.ca/partnersforlife.