Ben Macauley was hopeful choosing a starting quarterback for the Okanagan Sun would cause some consternation for his coaching staff.
With returnee Keith Zyla and newcomer Foster Martens going neck-and-neck for the No. 1 job, it looks like the new Sun head coach has been granted his wish.
Based on their performances on the opening weekend of the Sun’s main camp, Macauley
said the position should be in capable hands in 2016.
“They both responded really well under the pressure to perform,” Macauley said of Zyla and Martens following Sunday’s practise. “They’re making a difficult job for us which is exactly what we want, you never want that to be an easy question.
“The competition has been high between them,” he said, “and they’ve been bonding really well with each other. That’s what we want to see.”
The starter’s job came open this year with the departures of the team’s top two quarterbacks from 2015, Cam Bedore (graduation) and Josiah Joseph (University of Calgary).
The Sun initially had five pivots in the running, but have since seen the field reduced to three with Zyla, Martens and Nick Wenman, who is back for his second season with the team, now sharing the duties.
Zyla, 20, who is entering his second full season with the Sun, got his feet wet at QB in 2015, completing 5-of-14 passes for 194 yards while rushing for 84 yards on 12 carries.
Considered more of an athletic, running type of quarterback than Martens, Macauley said the Sun may not hesitate to use Zyla in other positions this season.
Still, Zyla plans to focus on securing the No. 1 job on offense.
“Quarterback is my preference, that’s the position I’d like to play but I’ll play anywhere the coaches want, whatever helps the team win,” said Zyla, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “Our offence is based a bit on my style, I think that would work well for me. But Foster is looking really good, too, so it’ll be a battle no matter what.”
A native of Steinbach, MB, Martens has some CIS experience having spent the previous three seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
At U of M, he played alongside former Okanagan quarterback and close friend, Theo Deezar. More of a pocket passer than Zyla, Martens expects the competition at Sun camp to only bring out the best in both players.
“Keith’s a great athlete and him and I are getting to be close, so there’s no tension about it at all,” said Martens, 20. “It’s pretty open, we’re both here to win, so whoever gets the start and gets to play on game day, we’ll be rooting for each other.”
The 6-foot-2, 215 pound Martens had several options for the two seasons of junior football he had remaining, but said the Sun stood out above the rest.
“It’s a winning organization, the Sun is known for being successful, so I wanted to go where I thought I could have success right away and compete for a championship,” he said. “When I came out for spring camp it was a good atmosphere, a tight-knit group and a family-oriented team. It just felt right.”
While the battle for No. 1 comes down to Zyla and Martens, coach Ben Macauley said sophomore Nick Wenman provides solid backup support.
“Nick has a great attitude, he goes out and fights on every rep, and he has no problem hanging in with those other guys. He’s come in this year with a lot of confidence.”
Macauley’s first camp…
Just as Ben Macauley is new to the head coaching job, about half the 76-man roster is also new to the B.C. Football Conference club this season.
After watching the first two days of the club’s main camp on Saturday and Sunday at the Apple Bowl practise field, Macauley said, as expected, there are still plenty of questions yet to be answered.
Still, the first-year field boss is excited to see the club’s identity take shape as the 2016 season progresses.
“There’s some uncertainty still of what kind of team we’re going to be, so I think we have a role as coaches to shape that a little bit,” said Macauley, who was an assistant coach with the Sun in 2012 and 2013. “Obviously each player brings something unique and it’s gong to be up to us, finding out what their strengths are, and taking advantage of those.
“We really want to set the standard high as far as character goes and the way we approach the game.”
The Sun opens the BCFC regular season July 23 in Chilliwack.