The last time the Okanagan Sun won a Canadian junior football championship, Kory Ngata and the vast majority of his teammates hadn’t even started playing football yet.
Fifteen years later, the 19-year-old running back hopes to have a hand in helping author a brand new chapter of Sun history.
On Saturday afternoon in Saskatoon, the B.C. Football Conference champs will take on the host Hilltops for the Canadian Bowl title.
“We know how long it’s been for the organization, and we can make some serious history on Saturday…I know all the guys are looking forward to bringing a championship back (to Kelowna),” said Ngata. “As long as we come out and execute our game plan, play like we can, we should have a chance to do that.”
The Sun and Hilltops are meeting for the eighth time in their history—either in the national semifinal or in the championship game—with Saskatoon holding a 4-3 edge.
Okanagan’s last Canadian Bowl win came in 2000 in Kelowna at the expense of the Hilltops.
A year later, in 2001, the Hilltops returned the favour beating the Sun in the title game in Edmonton.
In previous playoff trips to Saskatoon, Edmonton and Regina over the years, the Sun has never won a game on the prairies.
Current running backs coach Don Richmond was on the coaching staff for the 2001 and 2004 Canadian Bowls, both of which the Sun lost.
Based on what he’s seen from this year’s team, Richmond believes the 2015 version of the Sun is well-equipped to end the drought.
“I tell people it’s the best team I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been here,” said Richmond. “We’ve had a lot of good teams, but all the way around, none has been better than this one.
“It all comes down to depth,” he added. “We can send second and third guys out there and not really lose anything. One guy goes, down somebody steps right in. That’s been the key this year.”
While the Sun steamrolled through the BCFC regular season and playoffs with a 12-0 record, the Hilltops were nearly as dominant with a 9-1 record.
With Saturday’s game to be played on artificial turf and not the frozen prairie tundra of past playoff meetings, Richmond is hoping the Sun will be able to put its skill and quickness to good use.
“(The Hilltops) are a big, strong team, like they always are, but I think we may be able to use our speed against them,” said Richmond. “With the artificial turf instead of what we you used to see out there, it just might level the playing field.
“I’m expecting a great football game between two good teams.”
In winning its first BCFC title in 11 seasons on Oct. 18 at the Apple Bowl, Ngata said the Sun took a big step towards validating the 2015 season.
One more win on Saturday would complete the process.
“It was a great win, but I think for a lot of us we sort of brushed past the B.C. championship pretty quickly,” he said. “Our goal all along has been the national championship. That’s what we’ve been working for.”
The Sun will leave for Saskatoon Friday morning via a charter flight, then will return home Saturday night following the game.
Kick off is 11 a.m. Pacific time.