Sun resilience falls short in Cullen Cup

Defending BCFC champs launch late comeback, but not enough to beat hometown Rebels for a trip to the Canadian Bowl

The Sun's Layne Hull (left) and Elias Rodriquez hone in on Westshore quarterback Ashton MacKinnon during the Cullen Cup final Saturday in Victoria.

The last 25 minutes of Saturday’s game in Victoria was some of the best, most desperate football the Okanagan Sun played all season.

It was the first 35 that ultimately cost the defending B.C. Football Conference champs a return trip to the Canadian Bowl.

The Westshore Rebels bolted out to a 32-0 lead, then staved off a late Sun rally for a 32-21 victory in the 2016 Cullen Cup at Westhills Stadium.

“I saw a lot resilience from our players, it was impressive to see guys who were refusing to give up,” Macauley said.

“A couple of bad breaks to start the game, we shot ourselves in the foot and could have just packed it in but the guys fought back.

“We learned a lot about ourselves, it’s tough way to see it end, but it’s going to serve this team well in the future.”

For Macauley, his coaching staff and many of the Sun players, the 2016 season was a learning experience, accented by a number of peaks and valleys.

After starting the season 6-0, the Sun slid into a mid-season funk, losing three straight games, including a 58-2 humbling at the hands of the Saskatoon Hilltops.

The Sun then rebounded with back-to-back, pressure-packed wins over the Langley Rams to get to the final, before coming up flat in the first half of Saturday’s game.

Macauley shoulders the bulk of the responsibility for his club’s inconsistency during the season.

“We know we have a team that can compete,” he said. “It would had been nice to have that from the get-go, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

“We couldn’t make all the plays we had to, so it’s a lesson that we gotta be ready to put it all on the line in a game like that.”

“A lot of that is to do with stability in coaching, I was learning as we went along, what personnel decisions to make. As a coaching staff, we learned the hard way.

“It’s something we’ll take with us into next season.”

And if the Sun’s board of directors approves his return, Macauley fully plans on using the lessons learned this year to the club’s full advantage in 2017.

“Unless it’s not by my choice, I’ll be back, he said. “I’ve always preached consistency, so that’s hopefully what I’ll bring coming back.

“I’m reasonably happy with the way things went. We were running on a skeleton crew for a lot of the time, so with a few more bodies as full-time coaches, it should be better next season.”

Reciever Pierre-Luc Lord ended his Sun career with one high note, as the Salmon Arm native was named the special teams player of the game in the BCFC final.

The Rebels will host the defending national champion Saskatoon Hilltops in the Canadian Bowl, Saturday, Nov. 12, in Victoria.

 

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