It wasn’t the kind of effort head coach Shane Beatty had envisioned to open the second half of the B.C. Football Conference season.
The Okanagan Sun’s longstanding woes at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park continued Saturday, as the hometown Vancouver Island Raiders took down the visitors 45-17.
It was the Sun’s ninth consecutive regular season loss in Nanaimo, dating back to the 2005 campaign.
The Sun, who managed just 58 yards in total offense in the first half got behind the 8-ball early and simply couldn’t recover. A pair of Raiders interceptions off quarterback Theo Deezar and a missed field goal from just 15 yards all contributed to the sluggish start.
“Offensively, we just didn’t capitalize,” said Shane Beatty. “We’re not used to seeing that. We had the ball inside 20 twice early and got nothing. That takes its toll on a team.”
The Raiders, who marched 85 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, led 17-0 at the half and 31-3 after three quarters. The Sun rebounded to make the game at least mildly interesting with touchdowns one minute apart in the fourth quarter—one on a pass from Theo Deezar to Dillon Fortune, the other by Dan Ruddy on blocked punt return.
But Sun quarterbacks threw four interceptions on the day—three by Deezar and another by Cam Bedore—and all were momentum killers.
The next-to-last pick, an 88-yard return by Andrew Rowe for a touchdown, made it 38-17 and effectively put the game away for V.I.
Due to a couple of key coaching decisions, Beatty shouldered some of the blame for the loss. Still, he expects the setback to make the Sun a better team going forward.
“Sometimes a loss is a great opportunity and that’s the way we’re looking at this. I made a a couple of mistakes, the team made mistakes…we need to correct them, learn from them and get better.”
The loss drops the Sun to 4-2 (pending appeal), while the Raiders, at least temporarily, pull even with Okanagan at 4-2, good for second spot in the BCFC.
If an earlier decision to overturn the Sun’s July 27 win over Chilliwack is reversed, then the Sun’s record would revert to 5-1.
Regardless, the Sun sits in relatively good shape heading into its final four games of the regular season—two each against the Kamloops and the Huskers— against two of the league’s weaker opponents.
And it’s a far better situation than a year ago when the club was struggling just to hold on to a playoff position.
“Even if we finish 8-2, we’re second, but as it stands now we still have a shot at first,” Beatty said. “All in all, I’d say we’ve had a pretty good year.”
Okanagan returns to action this Saturday when they travel to Chilliwack to take on the Valley Huskers.