KELOWNA—Due to work commitments, Raquille Cespedes missed a significant amount of practise time this week with the Okanagan Sun.
After the events of Sunday afternoon, the B.C. Football Conference club might want to keep the 21-year-old defensive back away from the Apple Bowl more often.
Cespedes was instrumental in the Sun’s dramatic 26-23 overtime victory over the Langley Rams Sunday in the BCFC semifinal.
Kealey Heintz connected for the winning points with a 34-yard field in extra time, sending the Sun to the Cullen Cup final against the Westshore Rebels in two weeks time in Victoria.
Cespedes made a pair of interceptions, recovered one of his own punts and converted a third-down gamble from punt formation with less than a minute to play in regulation to help the Sun get to overtime.
The Rams had a chance to take the lead with just over a minute remaining in regulation but Tiernan Docherty’s field goal attempt missed the mark and Jamie Turek was able to get the ball out of the end zone, avoiding giving up a single point.
With the game tied 23-23, and the Sun facing third down and 10 at their own 20-yard line, Cespedes ran for a first down—by a matter of inches—to help his club retain possession and force overtime.
“It was risky, but we had confidence they hadn’t seen that punt formation yet, we almost didn’t get it,” Macauley said. “But just superior effort on our blocking team and Raquille was just the man of the day. Never thought it would come down to a punter and kicker to win it, but I was really proud of the way they executed the call.
“Had he not got the first I might have been looking for a job,” Macauley added with a laugh. “He saved the day and I’m really proud of him.”
Coming off an up-and-down regular season, which included a three-game losing streak, Cespedes said he and his Sun teammates never stopped believing in themselves.
“It meant so much,” Cespedes said of Sunday’s win over the Rams. “The whole season, we honestly felt we were the best team and everybody kind of doubted us, said they’re not as good as they’re hyped up to be.
“We went on a bit of a losing streak there, but it’s good to get it back and win a game like this.”
Lliam Wishart, on an eight-yard run, and Shamar Donelson, on a 75-yard pass from Keith Zyla scored touchdowns for the Sun, who led 20-6 at the half.
In the second half, the Rams reeled off 17 straight points and took the lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities to put the Sun away.
Macauley said the Sun showed great resilience under pressure.
“Those are fun games, it’s stressful on a coach but you’re going to look back at these and the kids can hang their hats on these that you win a tight one,” Macauley said. “It also helps build resiliency, it doesn’t really matter what the score is at the half, teams are going to fight back. It’s playoff football and we have to be able to weather that storm.
“It was tough, you had those thoughts creep in that we were in trouble,” he added, “but we’ve got a good group of guys who are so positive and pick each other up. Even when we made some mistakes, they were bouncing back pretty well.”
The Sun will now prepare for the Westshore Rebels and the BCFC championship game the weekend of Oct. 29 and 30 in Victoria.
The teams split two regular season meetings, each scoring 50 points in the process.
Macualey expects hard-fought battle to decide the BCFC champion/
“It’s going to be an emotional game, a lot on the line now. They had a pretty raucous one themselves (Saturday). We’re going to have to be a lot better than we were today.
“It’s going to come down to fourth quarter play, so we’ll focus on that the next two weeks.”
The Rebels advanced to the Cullen Cup final with a 34-29 victory Saturday over the Vancouver Island Raiders.