A fired-up Apple Bowl crowd watched a charged-up Okanagan Sun team take over sole possession of first place in the BC Football Conference on Saturday night.
The Sun jumped out to a 17-0 lead, then held off the Westshore Rebels 27-21 in a battle of the conference’s last two unbeaten teams.
The pivotal play of the night came late in the second quarter with the Sun leading 10-0, when Raquiile Cespedes took a missed field goal and returned it 120 yards for a touchdown.
Running back Brenden Hansen carried much of the offensive load for the Sun, rushing 18 times for 99 yards and catching five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Foster Martens played the majority of the game at quarterback, completing 13 of 18 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown pass to Shamar Donelson. Martens added 59 yards rushing along the ground.
The Rebels fought back to make it a 20-14 in the fourth quarter, before a pair of Kealey Heintz field goals effectively put the game out of reach. Westshore scored a major in the final minute, but it was too little, too late.
The Sun bottled up the league’s leading rusher, Jamel Lyles, for much of the first half of the game. The former U of Manitoba player finished the night with 121 yards rushing on 13 carries and one touchdown.
Sun head coach Ben Macauley said his team responded to the challenges of Saturday’s first-place showdown with good, sound football.
“I thought we were pretty aggressive, we did the fundamentals well, just like we challenged the guys to do,” said Macauley. “We blocked and tackled and executed just the way we conceived of it, and the guys believed in themselves.
“We played with a lot of emotion and effort, so it was good to see.”
The Sun (3-0) will return to action next Saturday night when they take on the Vancouver Island Raiders at the Apple Bowl. Kick off has 7 p.m.