Four weeks into the 2017 campaign, the Okanagan Sun couldn’t be any better positioned in the B.C. Football Conference.
The Vancouver Island Raiders would like nothing more than to shelve the Sun’s prospects of an unbeaten season.
With the Sun (4-0) one game up on the Raiders (3-1) atop the BCFC, the longtime rivals will meet for the first time this season on Saturday afternoon at Nanaimo’s Caledonia Park.
As much as remaining undefeated at the midway mark of the season makes for an attractive story line, Sun head coach Ben Macauley said winning this weekend isn’t the be-all, end-all for his football club.
“Obviously we’re going to play this game to win, but we don’t want to make it too important,” said Macauley. “We started 6-0 last year, then lost three in a row after that, so we know what can happen.
“We just have to focus on the importance of doing our jobs,” added Macauley. “If we go in and do things the right way, we’ll win the game. It’s cliche, but every week we want to go 1-0. If we think about maybe running the table, we’re not focusing on the right things.”
Both teams head into Saturday’s matchup on a high after blowout wins last weekend on home turf. The Sun drubbed the Valley Huskers 71-7 at the Apple Bowl, while VI eviscerated the Kamloops Broncos 51-10 Saturday in Nanaimo.
Despite not having met this season, the Sun coaching staff has a good handle on the type of opponent they’ll be seeing on Saturday.
“They’re a well-coached team, not unlike Raiders’ teams of the past,” said Macauley. “They play an aggressive style of football, and they can ride the edge of aggression and cockiness. They have a tough, blue-collar mentality. They look like a solid football team.”
The Raiders are led offensively by returning quarterback Jake Laberge and receiver/returner Brycen Mayoh, who returned a punt and a missed field goal for touchdowns last week.
D-lineman Quintin Bowles, who recorded five sacks Saturday against Kamloops, is back this season from the University of Manitoba and has been dominant on the Raiders’ defense.
As for the Sun’s quarterbacking situation, Keith Zyla is expected back on the field this weekend after missing three games with a lower body injury. In Zyla’s absence, third-year pivot Nick Wenman went a perfect 3-0, while passing for 729 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Sun and the rest of the BCFC will have a bye for the Labour Day weekend. Okanagan’s next home action is Sunday, Sept. 10 against the Raiders.
Sun defensive back Aldrich Berrios has been named the BCFC’s defensive player of the week.
The 21-year-old BCFC rookie tied a club record with four interceptions Saturday night at the Apple Bowl in 71-7 victory over the Valley Huskers.
Berrios, a product of Notre Dame high school in Vancouver, also recovered a fumble.
Berrios also plays with the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s basketball team.