Rams v Sun

Jake Firlotte of the Langley Rams takes on Okanagan Sun’s Payton Price last September at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna. The Sun open the new season tonight, 7 p.m., at the Apple Bowl against the Kamloops Broncos.

Football is back today across British Columbia with all six BCFC teams in action.

In Kelowna, the Okanagan Sun host the Kamloops Broncos tonight at 7 p.m. at the Apple Bowl.

Elsewhere, the defending-champion Langley Rams host the V.I. Raiders while the Valley Huskers welcome the Westshore Rebels.

Here is a closer look at the six teams in B.C., with special thanks to Ryan Watters of the Canadian Junior Football League for some of these names and numbers below.

Okanagan Sun

2018 Record: 7-2-1

Coach Jamie Boreham (1st year)

GM Lawrence Nagy

OVERVIEW

A new head coach, new but veteran GM and new quarterbacks are working together to help the Sun rise back into the conversation of nation’s best junior football program.

Boreham has previous experience in the league — he was a Sun assistant — and Nagy is no stranger to the program as a former coach.

Players to watch

WR Javen Kaechele led the Sun in receiving last year, catching 26 passes for 436 yards and three TDs.

RB Kelton Kouri was one of only three players to appear in all 10 games last season. He ran for 658 yards and three scores. Kouri also caught 20 passes for 320 yards and five majors.

LB Conor Richard turned in an All-Canadian season in 2018. He recorded 20 tackles, six sacks and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a TD. He contributed plenty on special teams, too, blocking five punts and averaging 23.6 yards per kickoff return, one for a score. The CJFL named him the No. 1 player in Canada in its preseason top-50 rankings.

LB Tyler Going is ranked No. 8 on the CJFL’s top 50. He had 23 tackles, two sacks, six interceptions (one for a TD) and a fumble recovery.

QB Ethan Newman lands in Kelowna after spending a season with the national champion Saskatoon Hilltops. A lefty, he appeared in just one game last season, completing 2-of-3 attempts for 34 yards in Saskatoon’s 59-1 blowout of the Calgary Colts.

QB Alex Douglas played four games with the Erie Community College Kats in Buffalo, N.Y., two seasons ago. The Cambridge, Ont., pivot completed 26 of 50 passes for 310 yards, four TDs and 3 INTs.

Notes

Kelowna Secondary is providing rookies Kenny Clark and Kieran Carter this season while Rutland Senior is sending Bear Akachuk and Austin Yuros.

Quotable

“We’ve got some wonderful players out here.” — Coach Boreham, keeping his cards close to the vest.

Langley Rams

2018 Record: 7-3

Coach/GM Howie Zaron

Wayne McMurchy, VP of Football Operations

OVERVIEW

The 2018 Cullen Cup champions are faced with significant departures, losing DL Charles Nwoye and WR Jevon Cottoy to the CFL’S B.C. Lions. But Zaron said his 2019 recruiting class is filled with players ready to carry the mantle into the new campaign.

Players to watch

Zaron says “four-fifths” of his offensive line has returned, a sure headstart for any football team at any level. All-star tackles Nikos Lazarakis and Ross Baykey anchor that line.

QB Duncan Little is entering his fifth season, so there won’t be much rattling him. He’s the CJFL’s fourth-ranked player and top QB. He completed 60% of his 308 passes last season for 2,611 yards, 18 TDs and 11 INTs.

Notes

Saskatoon’s 58-21 victory over Langley last season was the fifth straight Canadian Bowl for the Hilltops.

Quotable

“As an offence, I think we’ll be better than we were last year, we just won’t have that ‘Jevon factor.’” — Zaron.

V.I. Raiders

2018 Record: 6-4

Coach Curtis Vizza (1st year)

GM Josh Williams (1st year)

Overview

We should know early just how well the rookie head coach and GM behind the Raiders did this season in the recruiting department with the defending-champion Rams first on the schedule. A three-time national champion, the Raiders were hardly a factor in last season’s playoffs.

Players to watch

QB Jake Laberge is entering his third season, and has passed for 6,050 yards, 47 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. Nearly half of his career INTs came last season alone.

WR Mike West was “on another level” during training camp, Vizza said. He caught 44 passes last year for 663 yards (good for a 15.1 average) and three TDs.

Notes

Both Vizza and Williams played for the Raiders. They won championships as players and assistant coaches. … Winnipeg Blue Bombers all-star running back Andrew Harris is a VI graduate.

Quotable

“That’s where my love is, right there, the offensive line. ... If I want to get in on a drill a little bit, I might get in on it, but I’ll let them do their thing.” — Vizza, a former O-lineman.

Westshore Rebels

2018 Record: 3-6-1

Coach Shane Beatty (2nd year)

Rob Lervold, president and GM

Overview

Shane Beatty stepped in after Week 3, but didn’t have much luck salvaging the season after Charly Cardilicchia quit. The Rebels lost four straight to end the season out of the playoffs. Ex-Raiders head coach Doug Hocking and former Okanagan Sun linebackers Jeff Mock and Todd Wiseman have also joined the staff.

Players to watch

QB Colby Henkel is a former CJFL Rookie of the Year with the Kamloops Broncos. Last season he helped quarterback the University of Windsor Lancers. His last CJFL season was 2017 when he completed 57% of his passes with the Broncos for 1,927 yards and nine TDs.

WR Brycen Mayoh was the CJFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player in 2017 after making a CJFL high 44 receptions for 805 yards and 12 TDs. He returned 39 punts for 561 yards and had a touchdown while returning 20 kickoffs for 576 yards. He returned three missed field goals in 2017 as well, including a 128 yard touchdown.

Notable

The Rebels tied the Sun 18-18 in Week 2 of last season at home. ... Beatty is a two-time coach of the year.

Quotable

“I want to give everybody a chance to compete and get after it.”

— Beatty on his new recruits.

Valley Huskers

2018 Record: 6-4

Coach Bob Reist

President Brenda Currie

Overview

The Huskers defeated both the V.I. Raiders and Okanagan Sun for the first time in franchise history last season as Bob Reist went on to win CJFL coach of the year honours.

However, quarterback Julian Wytinck who has graduated from the CJFL.

Players to watch

DB/RET/RB Marcel Arruda-Welch comes to the Huskers following a season at University Manitoba. The Winnipeg native had 26 tackles last season as a defensive back. He combined for 39 kick returns for 678 yards.

LB David Steeves played the last four seasons at Trinity Bible College in North Dakota. He was three-time National Christian College All-American thanks to 242 tackles, 13 sacks and set a school record for most forced fumbles in a career.

Notes

Blair Atkinson from University of Manitoba is new offensive coordinator; former Langley Rams head coach Jeff Alamolhoda will coach the linebackers and the front and University of Manitoba’s Will Sheils is to coach the receivers.

Quotable

“We don’t need a guy to come in and be a hero. We need a guy who can distribute the ball and get it to the guys who can make big plays.”

— Reist to the Chilliwack Progress about his new QBs.

Kamloops Broncos

2018 Record: 0-10

Coach Rob Ellis (1st year, returning)

President Darren Watt

Overview

What can you say about a team coming off an 0-10 season? Well, there’s certainly nowhere to go but up.

Coach Ellis, who has two previous seasons leading the Broncos, is back and filled with optimism. Let’s hope he’s managed to find pieces that will bring Kamloops back into the win column.

Players to Watch

Third-year QB Nick Nica has transferred from the Valley Huskers in hopes of turning heads and landing a chance to play college ball. He played three games last season, completing 8-of-30 passes for 140 yards, no TDs and three INTs.

RB Kuda Murasiranwa is expected to get the start tonight. He’s a track star from University of Guelph and USports champion in the 60 metres.

Notable

Kuda’s brother Darlington Murasiranwa could also see time in the Broncos’ backfield tonight. He just graduated from Westsyde high and is expected to play soccer for Guelph in the fall, Kamloops This Week reported. The brothers have Zimbabwean heritage.

Quotable

“Thank the scheduling gods for giving us the Sun and then Langley right after that. It was really nice of them.” — Ellis told Kamloopsmatters.com.

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Email: sports@ok.bc.ca