Sun seek payback vs Canadian champs

The Saskatoon Hilltops, who defeated the Sun in the 2015 Canadian Bowl, will be at the Apple Bowl Saturday night for junior football action

Linebacker Layne Hull

The anguish Layne Hull felt following the 2015 Canadian Bowl in Saskatoon isn’t nearly as intense today as it was last November.

Still, the 22-year-old Okanagan Sun linebacker has had no trouble getting motivated to exact a little revenge on Saturday night at the Apple Bowl.

As part of the first ever interlocking regular season weekend in Canadian Junior Football League history, the Sun will host the Prairie Football Conference’s Saskatoon Hilltops in a 7 p.m. kick off.

The hometown Hilltops denied the Sun a national junior title with a 38-24 win last Nov. 7 in the Canadian Bowl.

This Saturday night, Hull expects the Sun to be well prepared for the rematch, both mentally and physically.

“It’s was a big accomplishment to get there last year, but honestly it still stings thinking about that loss,” said Hull, the outstanding defensive player in last year’s Canadian Bowl. “We had the team to do it, but we beat ourselves.

“This year, everybody is motivated, we’re focused and we know a lot more about what to expect,” he added. “It’s been a goal of ours all year, we’re definitely looking for some payback.”

In addition to having the hometown crowd on their side, the Sun will be unveiling their newest weapon on Saturday night.

Fresh from the training camp of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, receiver Rashaun Simonise has signed on with the Sun for the remainder of the B.C. Football Conference season.

Also a dangerous kick returner, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Vancouver native played in two exhibition games this month with Bengals before being released on Sept. 3.

Last season, Simonise was a CIS all-Canadian with the University of Calgary Dinos.

“He’s a huge addition for us, but we do still have to be at our best fundamentally,” Macauley said. “One spectacular player is not necessarily going to equal a win but it does make us that much better.”

The Hilltops come in to Kelowna with a 4-1 record and, according to Macauley, don’t have quite as much depth as last year’s Canadian champs. But that doesn’t mean his club will be taking any shortcuts come game time on Saturday.

“The (Hilltops) do nothing fancy, but they do it well,” he said. “They lost a lot of fifth year players, they’re different than they were, but they’re a team that’s always tough and we expect them to be prepared.”

As for the atmosphere at the Apple Bowl on Saturday, Macauley looks for the hometown support to provide a big boost for his club.

“It’s going to be a really good feeling,” Macauley said of having the Apple Bowl crowd behind them. “We have a lot of alumni reaching out and offering support, there’s a lot of interest in this game. There’s some unfinished business for a lot of our veteran guys and they’ll have chance to look after that on Saturday night.”

The Sun and Westshore Rebels share top spot in the BCFC with 6-1 records.

Next weekend, the Sun will be on the road as they visit the Vancouver Island Raiders Saturday, Sept. 24 in Nanaimo.