Matt McConnell has developed into an outstanding defensive back over the last number of years with the Sun.
Last season was another solid one for the Chilliwack native. He collected 22 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 2 knockdowns, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception.
The BC Lions have certainly been keeping their eye on him, inviting him to his fourth Evaluation Camp on May 6th. He's one of eight Sun players invited.
He speaks to the voice of the Sun, Ryan Watters about the offseason and the invitation to Lions Camp.
The Okanagan Sun is proud to announce a High School Development Camp is scheduled for Saturday May 7, 2016.
The Camp is open to all current high school football players in grades 8-12. Registration fee is just $50 and will feature Sun Head Coach Ben Macauley and a number of Sun coaches and players.
Campers will receive the following:
The Development Camp will take place at the Apple Bowl complex from 8:00am – 4:00pm.
To register email Head Coach Ben Macauley
Photo courtesy of Greystoke Photography
For the fifth consecutive year the BC Lions have opened their doors to Okanagan Sun players along with players from across the BCFC. In all eight Sun players have received invitations to the Lions Spring Evaluation Camp, taking place May 6th.
According to the Lions there are a number of reasons why these players were selected to show off their talents. “Many of these players had successful 2015 seasons and grew and developed as players, and now they have earned the opportunity to continue their development” noted BCFC/CFL Liaison Tyler McLaren. “This is something all of the invited players should be proud of, as it shows that they have worked hard and done the right things to get them to this point.”
Keeping an eye on talent for not only 2016 but years beyond in the BCFC is another benefit to going through a process like an Evaluation Camp. “It is always great to see the talent the BCFC has each and every year,” said BC Lions Director of Football Operations and Player Personnel Neil McEvoy. “For all of these players, this is something that they prepare for now, and will also benefit them in the short and long term. It is great to get them in this environment and see what they can do, and how they perform. For some of these players, this is their first opportunity in a situation like this, and the hope would be that they would see what it is all about, and know what is expected to make it to the CFL.”
Sun alum and 2016 CFL Draft hopeful Brennan Van Nistelrooy certainly remembers attending these E-Camps and credits them for helping prepare him for the success he recently had at the regional and national CFL combines. “It was a great experience to attend the Lions/BCFC workout while I played for the Sun. It definitely helped me prepare for the CFL combines, as it gave me the chance to be in front of pro coaches, and also helped me know what I needed to work on and what my strengths and weaknesses were. It was a great experience, no question about it.”
The Camp will take place over the course of one full day at the Lions training facility in Surrey.
Here is the complete list of Sun players along with players from the BCFC that have been invited:
Michele Vecchio – Okanagan Sun
Jamie Turek – Okanagan Sun
Cliff Crews – Okanagan Sun
Beck Fullerton – Okanagan Sun (pictured)
Lerone Robinson – Okanagan Sun
Cord Delinte – Okanagan Sun
Matt McConnell – Okanagan Sun
Layne Hull – Okanagan Sun
John Beckerleg – Langley Rams
Nathan Lund – Langley Rams
Dustin Rodriguez – Vancouver Island Raiders
Cole Virtanen – Vancouver Island Raiders
Josh Paisley – Vancouver Island Raiders
Jacob Palmarin – Kamloops Broncos
Brody Bernier – Kamloops Broncos
Derek Walde – Kamloops Broncos
Jake Hall – Westshore Rebels
Aarmin Purewal – Westshore Rebels
Jorge Monzon Yarwood – Westshore Rebels
Photo courtesy of Greystoke Photography
The 36th Okanagan Sun schedule was released last week, here are five takeaways from the Broadcast Booth with Ryan Watters:
1) Interconference Game: This is groundbreaking! Most Sun fans have September 17th already circled on the calendar as a day history is made across the Canadian Junior Football League. The Sun will host the Saskatoon Hilltops in the rematch of last year’s Canadian Bowl. This will be the first time the Sun have played a team from the Prairie Football Conference in a regular season game. Overall it’s the ninth time these two powerhouses have met and first time at the Apple Bowl since the 2000 national championship and who knows, could be a preview of this year’s Canadian Bowl! Do not miss this game.
2) A Familiar Face: The home opener should also create a buzz in the city as the Sun host the Westshore Rebels for the second consecutive year on Saturday August 6th. The biggest reason for the buzz, it’s the return of former head coach Shane Beatty, who is now a member of the Rebels coaching staff. Following the Canadian Bowl, the two mutually parted ways, this will be the first of two meetings this season.
3) Just One Matinee: Traditionally the Sun have had two, sometimes three Sunday afternoon games following the Labour Day weekend. This season, there is just one matinee and it’s the regular season finale when the Langley Rams come to town on October 2nd. The reason for the slight change this season is the highly anticipated visit of the Saskatoon Hilltops. Hosting the game at 7:00pm on Saturday September 17th worked easier for the transportation aspect of the plan. The Hilltops will be flying to BC along with the Winnipeg Rifles who will carry onto Chilliwack.
4) Good Things Are Worth Waiting For: This could be the first time in team history that the Sun will have four bye weeks. If the Sun are lucky enough to play and host the Canadian Bowl, they will play just two games in 41 days between the regular season finale and the national championship. Following the October 2nd game against the Rams, the Sun will have a bye during Thanksgiving. The week after will be a semi-final, then another bye before the Cullen Cup, followed by yet another week off on the first weekend of November, before the Canadian Bowl on November 12th. At least the players will be rested. Oh and actually the first Sun bye is on the Labour Day long weekend with the rest of the Conference.
5) Interior Rivalry Done Early: Unlike last season when the Sun faced the Kamloops Broncos twice in three weeks at the end of the season. This year these two rivals will meet twice before the halfway point of the campaign. In Week 2 the Sun will visit Hillside Stadium before the Broncos stop at the Apple Bowl in Week 5.
The Sun open Spring Camp on May 13-15.
Photo courtesy of Greystoke Photography
The Okanagan Sun will open the 2016 season and defence of their BCFC title with two straight road games beginning July 23rd. The Valley Huskers will welcome the Sun in Week 1 at 7:00pm, while the Kamloops Broncos will host the Sun in Week 2 on Saturday July 30th at Hillside Stadium.
The Sun will play a 10 game balanced schedule as the five other BCFC teams will host the Sun and travel to the Apple Bowl during the regular season.
The 2016 home opener will no doubt create a huge buzz as the Sun welcome the Westshore Rebels and former head coach Shane Beatty to town on Saturday August 6 and 7:00pm.
Perhaps the most intriguing regular game falls on Saturday September 17th when the defending national champion Saskatoon Hilltops visit the Apple Bowl. As announced yesterday the game will count in the regular season standings and will make Canadian Junior Football history as the first Interconference Game. The Hilltops visit will bump the Huskers visit as they will be the only BCFC not to play at the Apple Bowl this season.
Head Coach Ben Macauley says, “I'm excited looking at the 2016 schedule. I like to look at the whole journey right now before we buckle down and focus on the week by week and day by day work that goes into the regular season. There is certainly a buzz about Saskatoon coming to town and have already had former players from Canada reaching out, saying they are making a special trip out just for that game. It's at a time when we expect to be getting close to playing our best ball of the year, so having a great competitor on the schedule tests us when we need it most."
Strangely this season the Sun will receive three bye weeks; September 3, October 8 and October 23rd. The 2016 playoffs open October 15-16, followed by the Cullen Cup October 29-30 and finally the BCFC winner hosting the Canadian Bowl on Saturday November 12th.
The regular season finale falls on Sunday October 2nd when the Langley Rams visit the Okanagan in the lone afternoon kick-off.
The Sun are coming off an undefeated regular season and will begin a new era with head coach Ben Macauley at the helm. This is the first season since 2005 that the Sun defends a BCFC title from the previous year.
Spring Camps opens May 13 – 15, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Louis Christ
The Okanagan Sun in collaboration with the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) will make history in 2016 with an Interconference Game during the regular season.
This will be the first time in the CJFL’s long history that teams from the BC Football Conference will face teams from the Prairie Football Conference in a regular season game. On Saturday September 17th fans will see a rematch of the 2015 Canadian Bowl when the Sun host the defending champion Saskatoon Hilltops at the historic Apple Bowl at 7:00pm. This game will count in the BCFC standings.
"When the CJFL proposed a full interlocking schedule earlier this year, as an organization we were pretty excited," says team President Bill Long.
"We felt it was exactly what the league needed to make all teams better, and generate some excitement for fans in every city. The initial proposal was ambitious, and after much discussion we were presented with the opportunity to be a part of one of the two inaugural games this season. We jumped at that chance. From the Board of Directors through the coaching staff, everyone is fully supportive of this initiative. Yes, it does give us a tougher schedule than other teams, but it is important to look beyond just the one year implications. This is the future of the CJFL, and we need to have these games to see how we can make this a viable fixture on the schedule every year. Our fans deserve that."
“I think it shows there`s a real benefit to be part of the CJFL,” says CJFL Commissioner Jim Pankovich. “The teams in BC and the teams in the Prairies, play each other in their regular seasons, but what if we included some interconference games? What`s the level of competition and is there an opportunity to look at it during the regular season? We wanted to look at some really competitive matches, not just necessarily the first and second place teams but right through the entire depth of each conference. There is a lot of enthusiasm from the member teams. It’s a really interesting concept and a really interesting idea to bring forward because of the excitement and interest in can create. I’m looking forward to both games.”
This game will be one of two Interconference Games this season. Also on September 17th the Winnipeg Rifles travel to Chilliwack to face the Valley Huskers at 1:00pm.
The Sun and Hilltops have faced each other nine times since 1988, the Sun winning three of those matches. All eight of the previous games were part of a national playoff, whether it was for the Canadian Bowl or a national semi-final game. The most recent of course was last year’s Canadian Bowl in Saskatoon. The Sun last hosted the Hilltops in the 2000 Canadian Bowl.
The CJFL and Sun will release the 2016 schedule on Thursday April 21st.
Photo courtesy of Greystoke Photography
Coming off our best season in over 10 years, winning our first BCFC Cullen Cup since 2004. Advancing to the 2015 Canadian Bowl in Saskatoon, but fell in one of the most entertaining championships in recent memory.
Following the season the Sun graduated a number of key starters who were all crucial in their trip back to the national championship game.
The Sun coaching staff will look completely different from a year ago. Out is Shane Beatty and the 16th head coach in franchise history Ben Macauley is in. Macauley brings back defensive coordinator Nathan Mollard, and alumnus Mike Wolthuizen to run the offence. Some familiar faces return as well to the Board of Directors. Former players Landon King and Ben Simmons along with former head coach Jason Casey are back with the club.
QB Cam Bedore: For the first time in four seasons the Sun are looking for a new quarterback after Bedore’s junior career came to a close. He saved his best season for his last, leading the CJFL with a 136.8% passer efficiency rating, completing 66.9% of his passes for 1,501 yards and 21 touchdowns.
WR Kyle Kawamoto: He played just one junior season, but Kawamoto had a huge impact in 2015 and will be missed this season. He became the first receiver to collect over 1,000 yards since 2008, tallying 1,005 yards and was named an All-Canadian. He was also named the team’s co-MVP.
DB Brennan Van Nistelrooy. He did so much for the Sun in 2015 and one of the most talented players ever to wear the orange and brown. Named the BCFC Defensive Player of the Year with 19 tackles, a pair of blocked kicks and intercepted six passes. He also was the team’s punter with the opposition needing to be conscious of a fake each team the ball was snapped to him. The Lethbridge native was named an All-Canadian and was invited to the CFL National Combine in Toronto last month.
What They Need:
New head coach Ben Macauley has a lot of work to do, trying to fill the pieces of not only the key grads, but the number of players that moved onto a CIS program. The quarterback position is one in particular. Starter Bedore graduated, and #1 back-up Josiah Joseph signed with the University of Calgary. The linebacker position and offensive line is also high on the priority list.
The Sun are expecting big things out of offensive lineman Michele Vecchio in 2016. He is more confident than ever and has worked hard to be in great shape. He has a competitive mindset that will set him apart as a leader.
Lerone Robinson should be a marquee receiver again this year and is tough to cover. He is an athlete and is able to separate himself from a defensive back, winning the majority of the ball battles.
Defensively, lineman Lucas Machado and defensive back Matt McConnell are two guys who have yet to reach their full potential but are poised to do so after a strong off-season. Eli Haynes and Jamie Turek also will play a major role in leadership on and off of the field.
Photo courtesy of Greystoke Photography
One of the deepest part of the Sun roster a season ago was at receiver. Seemingly there was an endless supply of talent and targets for the quarterbacks each time they dropped back.
Here in 2016 the Sun will once again have a talented receiving corps but who will lead the charge? Last season Kyle Kawamoto and Kyle Patchell combined for 88 receptions, over 1700 yards 15 touchdowns for a dynamic 1-2 punch.
This season the return of veterans Lerone Robinson and Pierre-Luc Lord should give the Sun another lethal combination.
Robinson has been one of the most solid receivers over his first three years in the Okanagan. At 6’4 he is a tall, lengthy receiver, giving opposing defensive backs a multitude of match-up problems. He has made 54 receptions, gained 2,671 yards and scored 12 touchdowns since joining the Sun from SFU. Expectations will high for Robinson in 2016 after the graduation of Kawamoto, Patchell and Thomas Huber.
Lord on the other hand had the best season of his junior career in 2015. He made 14 receptions for 232 yards and scored four touchdowns. In the Canadian Bowl, Lord caught a pair of passes for 19 yards.
His production in 2015 doubled that of his totals in 2014, thanks in large part to his off season commitment to strength, conditioning and route running.
Both receivers are entering their final year of junior eligibility and the coaching staff are hoping they will have a major impact this season.
“Lerone is due to be in the conversation for top receiver in Canada,” says head coach Ben Macauley. “He has all the tools, length, speed and soft hands. He is a quiet guy but will be leaned on as a leader in the locker room this year.”
“Lord is an intense player who has really committed to training this offseason. He is confident and another guy who will have to step into a leadership role and be a possession receiver.”
The Sun will open their 2016 Spring Camp on May 13, as they begin defence of their BCFC Cullen Cup title.
The Sun will open the 2016 Spring Camp on May 13 at the historic Apple Bowl.
This year’s camp will have the extra added excitement of the new coaching staff led by head coach Ben Macauley. He and his new staff will put players through the ultimate test of endurance and stamina as the defending BCFC champions take the first few steps to the new season.
With a new coaching staff in place each and every position on the field is “up for grabs” as veterans will be put through the same testing as the rookies.
A very intriguing opening will be at quarterback after the graduation of starter Cam Bedore. Last season’s back –up Josiah Joseph has moved onto the University of Calgary, so a fresh crop of players will try to win the eye of the coaches. Keith Zyla, who showed some flashes of brilliance as the third string pivot last year is one of the names expected to challenge for the starter position.
The 2016 Spring Camp is going to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. Players can find all the information on Spring Camp from May 13-15th by clicking HERE.
Another member of the Sun defence will take the next step in his football career and play at the CIS level.
Linebacker Keagan Hughes played a crucial role in the dominating defence of the Sun in 2015 and emerged as one of the leaders. He led the club with 87.5 defensive points on 33 tackles, six assisted stops, half a sack, two blocked kicks, two knockdowns and one forced fumble.
In what would be Hughes final junior football game, the 2015 Canadian Bowl, he was simply outstanding. He tallied a game high nine solo tackles, and assisted on eight others. As a matter of fact, in the three Sun playoff games in 2015, the Mt Boucherie grad led the way with 19 solo tackles.
Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke Quebec certainly took notice and made Hughes an offer he could not resist. “This fall I have decided to play the game I love at the next level and sign with Bishop’s University in Quebec. Bishops really has everything I have been waiting to find in a university. They have a small campus in a close knit community. They offer a great combination of football and academics. When Bishops invited me for a visit, and I got to know the other player and coaching staff. They are a great group of guys with a ton of talent. I couldn’t resist their offer. I’m excited to spend my next 5 years playing in Quebec and earning my degree in Sports Studies.”
Hughes not only excelled on the field in 2015, but was also the first to volunteer for team community events. Whether he was dancing at the Pregnant and Fabulous Family Fair or helping kids meet Santa Claus at the Downtown Kelowna Light Up, Hughes was there.
He will be missed on and off the field for the orange and brown, but we are certain he was look just as nice in the purple of Bishop’s.
The Sun will open their 2016 Spring Camp May 13-15, 2016.
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