A season that began with plenty of promise, high expectations, and visions of a B.C. title ended in disappointment for the Okanagan Sun on Sunday afternoon.
The underdog Langley Rams, who lost twice to the Sun during the regular season, more than returned the favour with a 31-29 victory in the B.C. Football Conference semifinal at the Apple Bowl.
The Sun trailed from the opening minutes of the game—and by as much as 17-3 in the second quarter—forcing them into catch-up mode all afternoon.
Trailing 31-23, a Sun offense that sputtered for much of the day finally got on track in the fourth quarter and made the game close with a long scoring drive in the final two minutes.
After having two intercepted passes overturned by Langley penalties, quarterback Jeremy Mraovic’s rushing touchdown with seven seconds left drew the Sun to within two points. But the two-point conversion attempt to tie missed the mark when receiver Dan Turek slipped in the end zone.
“I’m just gutted for the guys, it was a hard-fought battle and we don’t want to lose like that,” said Jason Casey, closing out his first season as head coach. “We had it at the end, you know, we were within a hair of getting her done. I mean the guys battled hard…they didn’t give up.”
A pair of missed opportunities in the second quarter cost the Sun 14 points. Mravoic was picked off in the end zone after the Sun had driven the ball to the two-yard line, while another drive was snuffed out inside the 20 when Okanagan failed on a third-down gamble.
The Rams’ big-play weapon did plenty of damage as Nick Downey caught five passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel English also hauled in a pair of TD passes for the Rams who move on to the B.C. Football Conference final this weekend against the Vancouver Island Raiders.
Following a 35-3 loss a week earlier at home to the Raiders, the Sun had hoped to respond with a better and more urgent effort on Sunday to earn rematch with the defending champs from Nanaimo.
For graduating Sun player Josh Richardson, the result was a tough pill to swallow.
“(The Raider loss) was a reality check for us, we went to work hard at practise this week and really felt we were ready…but it just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to,” said Richardson. “We just came out on the wrong end, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
As for fellow grad Charles Wilson, the Sun O-lineman said the loss wasn’t for a lack of effort by his teammates.
“There were lots of mental mistakes but the heart was definitely there today,” said Wilson. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have come up on the winning end. I guess that’s it, season’s over.”
In the end, Casey said his team lacked consistency, particularly over the last three weeks of the season.
“We do have lot of new faces, be it freshmen or guys new to the organization so there were a lot of changes, justifiable, in the off-season and at times they were clicking and at times they weren’t so we’ll go back to the drawing board. I have no doubt I want to make zero changes, just more recruiting. I mean coaching staff is great, the players are great.
“The corps of players we want,” Casey continued. “We’re going to be pushing hard to make sure everyone comes back and you know finish what we started this year.”
Coming up two steps short of the organization’s goal of a BCFC title is clearly a disappointment for Casey, but one that he’s clearly prepared to address in the off-season.
“We fell well short of our goal and you know we’ll go back,” he said. “We’ll take some time off and then we’ll hit the weight room, hit the game-planning, hit our books, our dryland training and we’ll get ready for 2012.”