Nick Dheilly will fortify the Okanagan Sun’s defensive line in 2018. -Piper Sports Photography/Regina Rams

Sun roster boasts depth for 2018 season

More than 80 players hit the field this week for the start of the BCFC team’s training camp

Every season, it seems, begins with promise for the Okanagan Sun.

But after one of the most aggressive and thorough off-seasons of recruiting—from coast to coast—there’s an even more positive tone than usual coming from head coach Ben Macauley and his staff.

Based on the depth and cross-section of talent on the 2018 squad, anything less than a B.C. Football Conference and national title would be a genuine disappointment for the Sun.

“We really found we needed to spread our wings wider with our recruiting efforts,” said Macauley who, along with assistants Nathan Mollard and Johannes Van Leenen combed the country for talent.

“We knew we needed guys to create depth and we’re only going to be as good as the players we bring in. We feel confident that the legwork has been done, now it’s a matter of putting it into effect on the field.

“We’re going into the season with the goal of bringing home a Canadian championship.”

The Sun kicked off the 2018 edition of main training camp this week and will be on the field for practise sessions this weekend at the Parkinson/Apple Bowl fields.

Macauley and crew will have more than 80 players at camp, with the numbers of returnees and newcomers virtually split down the middle.

The fruits of the Sun’s recruiting labours are evident along the defensive line where Macauley expects his club to give opponents fits this season.

Joining the orange and brown are Canada West sack leader Nick Dheilly, from the University of Regina, and Calgary’s Jmin Pelley, a 6-foot-6, 360-pound nose tackle who can line up on offense or defense.

“Really, both guys are almost unblockable,” Macauley said. “I’ve never seen this kind of depth on a D-line and it starts with those two.”

Returnees Cory McCoy, Conner Novak, Austin Bowes, Aiden Hennessey and Ryan Marquardt will also provide veteran stability along the D-line.

Regina’s Nick Cross, the Canada West rookie of the year in 2017, joins Calgary’s Austin Daisy on the linebacking corps which already boasts returnees Tyler Going, all-Canadian Conor Richard and Cody Thompson, who is heading into his fifth and final season.

Returning all-Canadian Tye Kitzman will head up the defensive secondary, while quarterback Keith Zyla will shift his brand of athleticism to the safety position, and Trey Adams is back for his third year in the defensive backfield. Newcomer Jordan Rae, via the Calgary Colts, will join the secondary where size will be operative word.

“There isn’t a DB under 6-foot-2, so this is certainly the biggest group we’ve had,” Macauley said.

The Sun offense will be guided by quarterback Jakob Loucks, the 2016 U Sports rookie of the year who played two years of university ball with the Mount Allison Mounties.

RELATED: Highly-sought pivot brings talents, experience to Sun

Loucks should be provided plenty protection by an experienced, depth-laden offensive line. Daniel Townsend, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound tackle from the University of Calgary, Brendan Barnes from UBC, and Montreal’s Danil Balan, are the mostly highly-touted newcomers. The talented, gritty threesome is expected to compliment returnees Marshall Klein, Liam Hamlyn and James Harney.

The receiving corps will feature a trio of locally-bred recruits—the 6-foot-6 Kyle Zakala and Blaise Beauchemin, both from KSS, along with Mt. Boucherie’s Dayton Moore who spent last season with the McGill Redmen. Toronto’s Malcolm Miller, a member of Team Canada, will join the likes of returnees Spencer Schmidt, Stevie Johnson, Javen Kaechele and Dakota Cartier.

At running back, returnees Brendan Hansen and Tanner Sudo will be joined by Lawrenzo Dissee from Calgary, Toronto’s Andre Goulbourne, and the undersized but dynamic Matt LaBelle from the Boucherie Bears.

Sophomore Isaac Wegner will again handle the kicking and punting duties.

The Sun will take to the field this weekend for two-a-day morning practise sessions.

Okanagan will kick off the BCFC regular with four consecutive road games, starting with a trip to Kamloops to battle the Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 5.

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