There was an awful lot of celebrating after the Okanagan Sun defeated the Valley Huskers 40-0 on Sunday afternoon at the Apple Bowl.
Conor Richard, however, remained calm in the aftermath of a blowout victory against the B.C. Football Conference’s second-worst team.
Don’t blame his teammates, he said, for primping and preening for the cameras; it’s been a long stretch of losing, and suddenly the Sun has won two straight.
“A lot of us were having fun (considering) the adversity we’ve been facing as an organization these past few weeks,” he said.
Sure, before the Okanagan beat Kamloops and Valley, they had lost three straight.
But what about what’s coming next? The Sun is now 4-0 against Kamloops (0-7) and Valley (1-6), but winless against everyone else.
Next week, they are in Langley to face the first-place Rams (7-0).
“Today was just about fun,” Richard added, “but we’re definitely focused on Langley for next week.”
It’ll be a completely different story there. Valley put up a fight on Sunday, especially through the first half. The Sun’s Isaac Wegner kicked a 27-yard field goal, and the defence recorded a safety for a 5-0 lead.
But Chilliwack’s wheels fell off in the second half, and the Sun kept pushing. Even with the backups into the game late, the scoring kept coming.
Richard led the offence with 91 yards receiving and two touchdowns – including a 65-yard bomb from backup QB Dominic Britton. Richard also added 26 yards along the ground on three carries. Kelton Kouri was the workhorse in this one, however, and kept Chilliwack’s defence honest all afternoon. He had 114 yards along the ground with one major score. He also caught a pass for 32 yards.
Rookie receiver Chan Lual and Farrell Kenfack each caught TDs. The passing attack was effective, for the most part. Starter Alex Douglas was 6-for-15 for 80 yards with three passing TDs and one interception. Britton came into the game late and went 2-for-3 for 90 yards and a TD pass. The bulk of that, of course, came from his deep strike to Richard, a ball that was placed almost perfectly to where only the receiver had a chance to stretch for it.
It may have been the Sun’s most complete game to date.
“Probably,” coach Jamie Boreham said. “We were better on offence. We were better on defence. The special teams was a lot closer to the speed we need to be playing. It was the closest we’ve been, but by no means is it there.”
The passing game continues to evolve.
Douglas had trouble finding receivers, and when he did find them, they didn’t always close their hands on the ball under drizzly conditions. The running game continues to pound away at opposing defences.
At least it was entertaining. The Sun scored 38 points last week, but before that their season high was 26 points in Week 1. It was good to see guys get good looks and catch footballs in the end zone.
They had never scored more points at home this year.
Overall, the Sun ran for 189 yards compared to 99 for the Huskers.
It was comparable through the air: 175 for the Sun, 98 for Valley.
Having Richard back in the lineup may have helped. He had been out since Week 2, also against Valley, with a concussion. He had been playing both sides of the ball, and was a fearsome face with the linebacking cops and on special teams blocking punts or returning them.
The Sun has kept him on offence to limit the chances of another head injury.
“Switching to the offensive side of the ball has been a challenge for me,” he said. “It’s been fun. We’re having fun out here getting the team back on a roll, trying to get to a national championship; it’s still a possibility.”
He may still play linebacker, but only in spot situations.
“It’s good to see other people fill my shoes,” he said. “The defence is working, obviously.”
Valley coach Bob Weiss would likely agree, but he also suggested his team was its own worst enemy.
“We have to execute,” he said, “and continue to fight when things don’t go your way. It’s something we challenged our group on at in the beginning of the week. For a half of football, sure, but you have to play with hear for four quarters, and I don’t know if we maintained that.”
It didn’t look like they did, from the press box at least.
It’s not that the Huskers were scrappy – heck, it was some of the scrappiest football at times – but scrappy isn’t always a good thing.
Give the Sun defence credit, too. They limited the league’s leading receiver – Brandon Poulin – to four catches for just 21 yards. Garret Cape had two interceptions and Liam Johnstone recovered two fumbles. Brenden Ripko was a stalwart against the run, making six tackles while Kayel Bergland had two sacks and Robie Holland had one.
Now, challenge awaits the Sun (4-3). The Okanagan is at Langley (7-0) next weekend, will host the V.I. Raiders (4-3) after that, and then visit the Westshore Rebels (5-2) to conclude the regular season.
All three teams are ahead of them in the standings, and all three have beaten the Okanagan. When Langley was here two weeks ago, the Sun had the game under wraps with less than three minutes to play. The Rams, however, connected on a third-and-18 pass to stay alive. The Sun committed a personal foul after that, and Langley scored a TD with seconds to play for a 14-10 win.
“They’re a good team,” Richard said of Langley. “I think they’re undefeated, still, so we’ll try to knock them off their high-horse and see them in the playoffs for a third time this season.”
SUN SPOTS – Elsewhere in Week 6, the Raiders beat Kamloops 30-9 and Langley destroyed Westshore 54-3. … Richard is committed to University of Guelph next season. … The Saskatoon Hilltops and Langley Rams were 1-2 in the CJFL power ranking headed into week 7. The Sun was 10th place.