In 2005 the Okanagan Sun celebrated its 25th anniversary.
As part of the festivities that year we looked back at the top 25 games played in those years. Some game were wins, some were losses...but all were key moments in the history of the Sun for their own reasons
An undefeated Sun team arrived in Ontario, and it left hardly knowing it had been in a game. The domination was that great.
The club started slowly, perhaps part of a feeling out process in playing an OFC team for the first time. Some errors by both clubs were the story of first quarter as the Sun led 3-0. The Sun juggernaut offense woke up in the 2nd, as the Tiger Cats seemed ill prepared for a passing game like the Sun had to offer. Shane Brezden would connect with Mike Marasco on tosses of 10 and 30 yards, while Ed Kremenik added a rushing major to stake the Sun to a 27-0 half-time lead. As Burlington’s coach Doug Trimble said after the game, “In our conference we don’t see anyone who throws the ball as often, and we certainly don’t see anyone who throws it as well.”
No let up in the second half as Brezden threw two strikes to Corrie Lang, while Rod Muirhead also had a touchdown to round out the scoring. Brezden finished the day with 394 yards and 4 touchdowns on 24 of 42 passing, while the Sun defense allowed Burlington just 89 yards of net offense.
While the score might have been anti-climatic, the first ever championship for the Okanagan Sun, in only its eight season, certainly was not.
The Sun did not see the actual Armadale Cup until arriving back home in Kelowna. The trophy was lost en-route to Burlington before the game and the team was presented with the Schenley Award for the outstanding offensive player for photo purposes. The Armadale Cup was retired following the 1988 season (the Canadian Bowl was born in 1989), and now is on display and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton. The last team inscribed…Okanagan Sun 1988.
1997 Canadian Bowl
While the Sun was on the wrong side of the score, win or lose, this was one of, if not THE greatest football game ever played at the Apple Bowl. The crowd was energized as the historic Rams club and the Sun kicked off in front over 6000 fans. A combination of Sun miscues and some great football by the Rams had the visitors in the drivers seat with a 17-3 half time lead.
Cue the comeback, as the orange and brown, lead by running back Ron Arnold and a stifling defense dominated the second half. The crowd erupted when Arnold, on a third and one pitch from quarterback Greg Korstrom, scored from 36 yards out to tie the score at 17 with just over three minutes to go. The game headed to overtime, and the Sun continued to take the play to the Rams. A long drive would lead to a 16 yard Derrick Korstrom field goal with 56 seconds to play. The CJFL doesn’t play sudden death overtime though…. The Sun defense held the Rams to minus two yards on the next two plays, and with Regina scrimmaging 3 and 12 from their own 40, this game appeared to be over. Current BC Lion Jason Clermont, and the unquestioned leader of the Rams would then break the hearts of the home side on the next two plays. First a crossing pattern from QB Chad Ehman saw him take the ball all the way down to the Sun one yard line. He would then score from the backfield on the ensuing play to give his team a 23-20 win with only 3 seconds to play.
2000 Canadian Bowl Apple Bowl
The Sun was making its 4th consecutive Canadian Bowl appearance, and they had heard the “Buffalo Bills of the CJFL” jokes circulating. This club though, was a little different than the previous three teams to make it to the big game. A little more explosive offensively, a little more mature, and definitely hungrier than years previous. Virtually the entire team had lost by 3 points twelve months earlier in Windsor. They all knew what it would take to defeat the 11-0 Hilltops that were coming.
Two talented teams traded punches in the first half, which saw nothing settled and the scored deadlocked at 14. The 4400 fans in attendance would erupt just 2:29 into the third quarter when Zack Silverman and Jeff Schieman connected on a 56- yard pass and run to give the Sun a 21-14lead. A Hilltop touchdown and Sun single rounded out the quarter and the Sun lead 22-21 coming home.
In the 4th, two consecutive Stew Vanderheide touchdowns would give the Sun the cushion they needed. The first coming just over 4 minutes into the fourth quarter on a three yard run, the second on a 56 yard run with 5 minutes to go, set up when punter / receiver Adam Eckert bobbled a snap on a punt, then ran 29 yards for a first down after the Hilltop return team broke off into coverage.
The Hilltops got to within 8 points a series later, then after forcing the Sun to punt would set up a dramatic last 60 seconds of play. The Hilltops were forced to scrimmage from their own 1-yard line following a Sun punt, and the game appeared over. Then Hilltop QB Steve Bilan completed 4 straight passes to bring his team to the Sun 38 yard line with 40 seconds to go. With a collapse appearing about to happen in front of a stunned Apple Bowl crowd, Sun defensive back Dax Olafson intercepted the fifth Bilan pass at the Sun 20-yard line to end the Hilltops comeback hopes.
With 36 seconds to play, Zack Silverman would only have to kneel down three times and the Sun would be national champions for the first time since 1988. The first two snaps would happen quickly, but the offense would stay in the last huddle a little longer for the third to savor the moment. As Adam Eckert said later, “You looked around in the huddle, everyone had tears in their eyes.”
2000 BCFC Championship
The Sun was “built” for this season, and from the start of training camp, the only goal was the national championship. In the way though, was a gnarly team from Victoria that the Sun would first have to dispel. The Rebels had no intention of going quietly.
At half-time you could almost hear a pin drop among the crowd as Victoria owned the Sun in the first two quarters. They jumped on the Sun early and often, and by the mid-point of the 3rd quarter had what looked like an insurmountable 18- point lead. The explosive Okanagan offense wouldn’t stay silent though, and roared back, appearing to put the game on ice when fullback Jon Blocksom’s TD with two minutes to play gave the Sun a 34-27 lead. The Rebels would not quit themselves, as QB Jon Ryan lead his team back to the Sun end zone, with seconds to play, sending the game into overtime.
Stew Vanderheide, who had a monster of a game, gave the Sun a 43-36 lead with just over 5 minutes to play in overtime. Two series later, the Rebel defense would pin the Sun offense deep in it’s own end. The Sun elected to concede a safety, cutting the lead to 43-38 with a minute and a half to play. While this strategy would force the Rebels to march further down field to score, it also put them within 5 points, meaning an unconverted TD would win the game. Again, some great play making by the Rebels QB Ryan had the islanders marching down field. With seconds left on the clock, cornerback Andy Leeson went down to injury, and the club elected to send receiver Adam Eckert in his place, rather than an untested rookie. Adam had already had a whale of a game (330 all purpose yards) and made the defensive play of the game knocking the game wining touchdown pass away from the Victoria receiver in the end zone as time expired.
Jared Hoover with tackle on Rebels QB Jon Ryan
Kip Franz (Daily Courier) This photo was the Canadian Press Photo of the Week that year
West Final Apple Bowl
There would be little doubt this would be a hard hitting, and exciting game, as on paper the Sun and Hilltops matched up very well. While the game lived up to its billing, two instances stood above the rest on the drama scale in this one.
Down 15-3 with less than a minute to go in the first half, the Sun called a time out with a third and inches on the Hilltops 2 yard line. Offensive coordinator Jay Christensen and head coach Lawrence Nagy would be showered with a chorus of boos as the field goal team was sent on to the field. Maybe the crowd got to them (they will deny it of course!), but as the ball was a bout to be snapped for an easy three points, they would call another time out. The crowd erupted in cheers as after a brief discussion with quarterback Zack Silverman on the sideline, the offense returned to the field. Moments later, the gamble paid off with a touchdown and the Sun went to the dressing room trailing by 5.
The story got even better in the second half….With less then three minutes to go in the game, the Hilltops lead by the same 15-10 score. Facing a third and seven at the Hilltops 30, the Sun broke huddle. There was some confusion as to the play between Silverman and receiver Adam Eckert though, as Zack runs over to his wideout to explain the call one more time. Uh no, that’s not what he’s doing…..back up quarterback Jon Spencer is in the backfield at running back and takes a direct snap, launching the ball to Jeremy White in the end zone. With a two point conversion, the Sun take a 18-15 lead they would not give up.
We don’t think that play will work against the Hilltops again, but hey, once was good.
1983 Western Final Clarke Stadium, Edmonton
This season was just the club’s third in existence, so reaching the western final should have been looked at as a huge accomplishment. This Sun team though, felt confident that a national championship was a real possibility when the BCJFA play-offs began.
Edmonton lead 8-1 at half-time, little did the 2700 fans in know what a ride the 2nd half would be, as it would produce six lead changes. The Sun grabbed a 14-8 lead in the 3rd quarter on the strength of a Brian Soucie one-yard touchdown plunge and two Brent Chuhaniuk field goals. Sun defensive back Dave Mossman had an outstanding game with three interceptions, but it was a bit of bad luck that saw him deflect an Edmonton pass into the arms of Wildcats receiver Greg Kratzer to give the Albertans the lead 15-14. The lead would change hands twice more in the next 7 minutes as the game exploded. The Sun went up 21-15 when Grey Holomay scored on a 58-yard pass and run from QB Al Walls, only so see the Wildcats answer back with a touchdown of their own to take the lead 22-21.
As exciting as the 3rd quarter was though, it paled in comparison to what the last two minutes would bring. The Sun defense forced a Wildcat punt, which Brian Soucie returned for an 82-yard touchdown and a 28-22 Sun lead with les than two minutes to play. If the game looked it hand at that point, it was even more so when Sun defensive back Dave Mossman intercepted a Mark Denesiuk pass deep in the Okanagan side of the field on the ensuing Edmonton drive. Some long-serving volunteers of the Sun occasionally talk about the “prairie curse”; in reference to the fact the club has never one a play-off game there. There may not be a curse, so to speak, but this day would provide an omen that the Sun would have trouble in years to come on the frozen tundra east of the Okanagan…
Following the Mossman interception, the Sun offense stalled, forcing a punt with approximately 40 seconds to play, which Edmonton drove to the Sun 38. What appeared to be a harmless swing pass from Denesiuk to receiver Greg Kratzer mushroomed to a backbreaker when Kratzer stopped and rifled a 19-yard pass to Myron Samycia who rambled to the Sun 9-yard line. Three plays later Edmonton’s third and goal gamble would pay off with an Alan Hayes touchdown to give the Wildcats a 29-28 win as the clock ran out. The Sun protested loudly that clock mismanagement played a role in the score as a full 19 seconds elapsed without the clock moving on the three previous plays. The protest was in vain as Edmonton won the western final and two weeks later defeated the Ottawa Sooners for the national championship.
Sun head coach Brock Aynsley had this to say following the game; “In all honesty, I would rather have lost by 10 because then you know the other team is better, at least on that day.
“One point is too hard to take.”
1999 Canadian Bowl Windsor, Ontario
This was a classic fall football day in Windsor. Played under fall clouds and with autumn leaves falling, it really was football as it is meant to be played. As a visitor from Kelowna it was interesting to hear the 5000 fans at Windsor Stadium erupt when the PA announcer announce that the Michigan Wolverines were up by 3 over Notre Dame. This city is just steps from Detroit after all! A young Sun club took on a massive Fratmen team that was built for this season. With 36 of it’s 40 man roster set to graduate from junior ball, the Fratmen had rolled through the OFC competition, crushing every team they had faced. But, as one fan was heard to say as the Sun was introduced prior to kick-off, “They even look better than the teams we play.”
The Sun would give Windsor their only challenge of the season in a barn- burner of a game, but fall short on this day. Quarterback Zack Silverman would play perhaps the best game of his junior career as he marched his club down the field on the afternoon, constantly chased by the front 7 of Windsor. The young Sun offensive line was no match for the power of the AKO defensive line and linebackers. Despite being sacked 7 times and suffering badly bruised ribs, Silverman managed to throw for 394 yard and three touchdowns to keep the game within reach. During the post-game celebrations, the Windsor defensive coordinator made a point of searching out Zack to shake his hand and call him “The toughest son of a *&$% I have ever seen.”
The game itself was not decided until the last minute, and as one can imagine by the score, it was a whale of a game, and while the Sun may not have liked the outcome, the football fans in Windsor went home happy as their club won it’s first national championship in 54 years.
One side story that fans might find interesting. With seconds left on the clock, Windsor QB Dan Gray took the game’s final snap with the plan to kneel and end the game. For reasons known only to Dan, perhaps it was nerves, or he wanted to be sure he killed all the time on the clock, rather than immediately kneel down, he ran back 40 yards towards the Fratmen end zone before taking a knee. In hot pursuit was linebacker Ryan Folk who hammered Gray as time expired, prompting a near brawl as fans spilled onto the field. In the Sun dressing room following the game Folk, who now suits up for the Montreal Allouetes explained, “Hey, you make me run 40 yards, I'm gonna tune ya'"
1987 BCFC Championship
The old say “It ain’t over till it’s over” never rang more true than on this day. Trailing at the Apple Bowl 17-4 with less than 5 minutes to play, the season seemed done for the Sun. The deficit was even more insurmountable due to the fact the club was playing against a 50 KPH wind. Less the 3 minutes later, the Apple Bowl stands were half empty as the majority of fans left with the game out of reach. Those fans remaining were as shocked as the Raiders were to see the Sun now up 18-17. Two Sun touchdowns, one following a Richmond fumble on the kick off after a Sun touchdown with 2:51 on the clock had the home team in front.
This one wasn’t over yet though, as the Raiders drove the ball to the Sun 42 yard line with 8 seconds to play. Future hall of famer Paul Osbaldiston lined up for a 49 yard game winning field goal, that with his leg strength and that wind behind him, would be very make-able. As the ball was about to be snapped though, that wind inexplicably died… nothing. Raider coach Archie Skemp anxiously called a time out to allow time for the wind to pick up again. They waited and waited, and waited in vain for a wind that never came. Those in attendance will still chuckle remembering Skemp looking at the sky in disbelief. As the time out expired, Osbaldiston attempted the field goal, which fell short. Coach Nagy and company enjoyed arriving at Angie’s Pub later that afternoon to be consoled for a “tough loss” by some of the Sun fans that had left the game early
1995 Western Final
It was the Western Final at the Apple Bowl, and at stake was the opportunity to host the Ottawa Sooners in the Canadian Bowl. The two-time defending national champion Regina Rams would venture into the Apple Bowl for the first time this weekend. For the Sun, this was the first post BC championship game in three seasons. The electricity was unbelievable. This game was hyped as a match up of the all everything Rams QB Darryl Leason, who will go down in CJFL history as one of the all time greats, against the Sun’s phenom defensive end Jermaine Haley. The much- anticipated press conference held the eve of the game was a sign of things to come. With Leason sitting at the microphone waiting to answer reporter’s questions, Haley arrived late, clad in a dark green suit and mock neck collar. Those in the room swear they saw Leason gulp just a little as Hailey’s icy stare never left the Rams passer as he took his seat at the head table. Jermaine would later play in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins, the 250-pound monster looked like an NFL’er that day
The Apple Bowl was filled to capacity on the sunny Saturday afternoon that saw just under 1000 yards total offence split evenly between the two clubs. With just over 30 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, the Sun was on the Rams 32-yard line and trailing 11-8. Sun receiver Scott Zumack was injured on the field, allowing the coaching staff to decide QB Ian Couture would go to the end zone for the victory, and if unsuccessful, they would call on Jason Attwood to attempt a game tying 39-yard field goal. What seemed like a brilliant call went awry as the head referee signaled time in as Zumack left the field, rather than on the snap of the ball, meaning the Sun’s only chance to score would be the end zone pass. As the clock ran out, receiver Stace young beat the Rams coverage in the end zone, only to see to ball sail just inches past his out stretched fingers.
1983 BCJFA Championship
Empire Stadium, Vancouver
Running back Brian Soucie led the Sun to its first BC championship on this evening at Empire Stadium. The fleet-footed back played despite a broken hand as the club overcame an 11-5 half-time deficit with 22 second half points. He snared a 15 yard pass from quarterback Al Walls with 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter to put Okanagan on top 12-11, and then iced the win with a 3-yard touchdown run 4 minutes into the 4th quarter
1988 Western Final
Apple Bowl, Kelowna
This was the first time the Saskatoon Hilltops would play in the Apple Bowl, and the stadium was packed in anticipation. The first quarter would start slowly as both teams played conservative football and the defenses dominated. What happened next was football that fans in the stands love to watch (more so if the home side does it, which was the case.) Shane Brezden tossed a hitch screen along the line of scrimmage to Corrie Lang. The pass was less than perfect, forcing Lang to make an incredible shoestring catch. Under intense pressure from the Hilltops defense, Lang managed to loft a melon to a wide-open Tom Wickson for the first touchdown of the game. This was the first touchdown of many on the day as the Sun offence, that was loaded with weapons was too much for the Hilltops to handle. The club cruised to it’s first ever win against a PFC opponent
1996 Western Final
Gordie Howe Bowl, Saskatoon
While the Sun has had the Hilltops number at the Apple Bowl, Gordie Howe Bowl has proven less than welcoming. This second visit would be no less difficult to take. A key moment in this game actually occurred more than a week before the Sun ever boarded a plane to the prairie city as running back Ken Vermette (BCFC nominee for outstanding offensive player in the CJFL), blew his knee in practice two days before the BCFC championship. One of our most valuable weapons would watch this one from the sidelines.
A slow start, which seems typical for the Sun on the prairies, saw the Sun trailing 21-7 at halftime. The Sun’s major coming from fullback Dave Scherck who had a whale of a game with 147 yards. While Vermette was the BCFC all-star at tailback, Scherck was the conference best at fullback and was very adept at carrying the ball himself. At the half, coach Brezden and staff adjusted well and the Sun took over. Highlighted was the dominating play of safety, receiver, and running back Terrance Huston who would contribute 3 interceptions, a first down on a 49-yard fake punt, and a touchdown at the receiver position among his 265 all-purpose yards. Terrance’s performance would cause the Hilltops defensive coordinator to refer to Huston as a “man among boys” in the press following the game. Back to the game…..With 2:17 left in the 4th quarter, and the score now tied 21-21, the Hilltops special teams had the play of the day as Rhett Lundgren picked up a punt at his own 50 yard line that he took to the house for a 28-21 advantage. The Sun offence wasn’t done yet though, and after taking over at it’s own 32 yard line, marched a 10 pay drive to the Hilltops 14 yard line with 38 seconds to play. The drive and Sun season would end there though, with two incomplete end zone passes.
Photo courtesy Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Referee retrieves ball in the end zone on the Sun's final offensive play while Sun receiver Derek Korstrom endures the agony of the loss
First Game in Okanagan Sun History
Empire Stadium (1981)
Trivia buffs will be interested to know that kicker Bill Long scored the first ever point for the Sun when his 35 yard field goal attempt sailed wide, giving the team 1-0 lead after the first quarter of this game. If not for a crucial turnover, this first game might also have been the first victory as the Sun later scrimmaged with a first down at the Trojans 8 yard line before a fumble stalled the drive earlier in the 2nd quarter. That miscue would cost the club as Renfrew controlled the play for the balance of the half, scoring 20 unanswered points and taking a 20-1 lead into half-time that the Sun wouldn’t overcome. While the score would indicate that the Sun “took it on the chin” as they say, 20 of the Trojans points were scored during a brief 6-minute span in the quarter. Beyond that, the new guys on the block went toe-to-toe the rest of the game.
Another trivia note from this game, Rod Lawson became the first ever Sun player to touch the football in game action when he fielded the game’s opening kickoff.
The starting offence for the Sun: Bob Harrison, Barry Bassingthwaite, John Guizzo, Bob Urban, Keith Duncan, Greg Phillips, Bob Osborne, John Duncan, Randy Chun, David Turner, Kris Rainey, Brian Soucie.
Starting Defense: Greg Hewko, Brian Moore, Gordie Cann, David Nagy, Greg Galley, Scott Waddell, Rob Nagy, Bob Rennie, Rod Lawson, Jerry Tetrault, Doug Hamel, Done Sharpe
1995 BCFC Championship
Sun 13 Surrey Rams 1
It was becoming almost routine to see the Sun and Surrey Rams meet in the conference championship, as this was the 6th straight time the foes would clash. Two veteran laden teams that knew each other very well saw the three time BCFC champion Rams lead by the offensive powerhouse trio of QB Sean Olson and receiver Brad Couts and Brian Remming head to the Apple Bowl. The undefeated Sun would be waiting with among others former Ram Jermaine Haley, running back Ken Vermette and a stacked defense anchored by linebacker Troy Higgens and defensive lineman Travis Fehler.
Maybe it was overconfidence on the Sun part, or just shear determination from the Rams who had been handled easily by the Sun in both regular season games. In any event, what looked like a tight game on the scoreboard at halftime (4-1 Sun) was anything but. The Rams controlled the play throughout the opening two quarters and the Sun was fortunate to be up. The Rams had the advantage in the most important of positions, as 4th year QB Olson was showing why he was the conference nominee as outstanding offensive player. He had the Sun defense on its heels constantly.
Football is a team game, but on some occasions one player does make a difference, on this afternoon, Jermaine Haley decided he wasn’t going to be out done by his former team. Early in the second half a thunderous Haley sack leveled Olson, forcing him out of the game with a separated shoulder. The Rams, however, were blessed with a very good back up, JW Thompson, who would start on most teams. Haley was determined to see that no Ram quarterback would play spoiler on this day though, as on Thompson’s second play from scrimmage, a clean but vicious sack from Haley sent Thompson to the sideline with a broken jaw.
No one can quite remember who the Rams third QB was that day, but one can imagine he was more interested in making sure he got rid of the ball before a certain Sun player got with 5 yards of him. Final score Sun 13 Rams 1.
A week later, Olson and some of the Rams came to the Okanagan to see the Sun take on the PFC champions in the western final. Sun GM Les Weiss greeted Olson prior to the game and asked how his shoulder was, to which Olson replied; “I’m okay, but JW is still drinking out of a straw.” Ah football, not a game for the faint of heart
First Ever Sun Victory
The Sun were winless after a tie and two losses to start the season, but the club felt all three of those games could just as easily have been victories so confidence was not as issue on this day. The visitors would be the same club that the Sun faced in it’s first ever-game three weeks earlier at Empire Stadium.
While game- costing errors plagued the Sun in previous games, this week they jumped on the other side early to give themselves a cushion they wouldn’t relinquish. Kicker/receiver Bill Long was the offensive star this day, contributing 14 of the Sun’s points, including two field goals and the opening touchdown when he caught a 9 yard pass from QB Sam Marshall to give the Sun a 7-0 first quarter lead. Long set up that play with a 43-yard reception moments earlier. Marshall would also connect with receiver Dave Turner for an 86 yard pass and run in the 2nd quarter as the Sun lead 17-3 at half-time.
The defensive star of the game was Robert Nagy who turned back the Trojans when he intercepted a John Allen pass with nine seconds left in the half and the Trojans threatening to score. Over 1700 Apple Bowl fans went home happy as the club won its first in a long line of CJFL games
Sept 12, 2004
Sun 66 Tri City Bulldawgs 0
On this day the score would be irrelevant with the cellar dwelling Bulldawgs in town to play the undefeated Sun, this game should have held little consequence. This, however was the first time the Sun players took to the field since their team mate Jeff Halvorson died in front of them at practice on a field barely 100 yards away 11 days earlier.
With Jeff’s wife, daughter and parents in the packed Apple Bowl stands, the fans were there not so much to watch a football game but to assist a memorial fund that saw all gate receipts turned over to his young family.
Emotions were overwhelming as the players and coaches marched to the field to observe a moment of silence for their teammate. When Halvy’s fullback, Dave Simpson scored the opening touchdown on a 60-yard gallop, he pointed to the sky as he crossed the goal line. It wasn’t hard to imagine Jeff looking down with that trademark grin of his.
This would be the first game in an 8 day span for the club as they had to play a mid week game in Victoria to make up for a postponed game following Jeff’s passing. The Wednesday nighter against the Rebels was huge in that the club was locked in a first place show down with the islanders. It was also huge emotionally as the last game Jeff played in 4 days before he died; he was named the CJFL player of the week for his role in a win against this same Rebels club. Many expected the club to drop this game against a tough opponent, as the sting of what they had endured would be even more pronounced now that they had to play in a “real” game. The orange and brown brought their “A” game though and clinched first place in a downpour with a 31-13 win. This was a performance they should have been most proud of.
Twenty years from now though, one can only believe that the memory of the game on September 12, 2004 against the Bulldawgs will be the one that the Sun players remember most
1989 Exhibition Sun 28 Wenatchee JR. College Knights (Washington) 27
An exhibition game appearing in a “greatest ever games” category might seem a bit odd. This game makes the cut as the Sun accomplished four big feats when all the odds were stacked against them. 1) Defeated a superior opponent. 2) Defeated them on their turf. 3) Defeated them in a game that counted in the standings for the Knights. 4) Defeated them playing American rules. American Junior Colleges can schedule a game against any conference-approved opponent, and such games count in their conference standings. Perhaps the Knights figured the junior team from Canada, where hockey, not football is king, would present an easy two points.
The game seemed safely in hand for the home team, with the Knights leading 27-14 late in the third period (oops, 4th quarter). Following Wenatchee’s 4th touchdown, they missed the convert, thus the 27 points. This gave the Sun and safety Shane Sommerfeld the window they needed. The speedster returned the ensuing kick-off 80 yards for a TD to cut the lead to 27-21. Less than a minute remained on the clock and Sommerfeld’s heroics were not done as the all-star safety picked off a pass and took it 40 yards for his second major. The convert was good, giving the Sun the 28-27 victory in the “Free Trade Bowl”!
1989 Western Semi-Final
The Sun came into this game as defending national champions and had gone a perfect 8-0 through the BCFC to defend the provincial title this season. Looking at the game film of the Hawkeyes in the Manitoba final didn’t tell the coaches much as the weather conditions were not great, and the game was played in a mud bog as much as anything else.
The Hawkeyes were a huge club, specializing in a ball control offense thanks to an oversize offensive line and bruising running back. On the fast surface of Winnipeg Stadium, this should have played into the hands of the smaller, skilled Sun team. A swirling wind, typical of that stadium arose on this day though, keeping Shane Brezden’s arm in check. That along with the pounding running style of the Hawkeyes Mike Connor (36 caries, 187 yards) kept the Sun on its heels all day. The Sun coughed up 5 turn-overs, none bigger than mid-way through the 4th quarter, with Winnipeg leading 16-10 when Brezden was picked off by Garfield Thompson at the Hawkeyes 19 yard line.
Repeating, as they say, is the toughest thing to do in sports
1981 Regular Season
Apple Bowl, Kelowna
5 games into its first season, the Sun sported a surprising 2-2-1 record after starting the season 0-2. The club’s tie, a 17-17 deadlock with the undefeated powerhouse Richmond Raiders occurred three weeks earlier. The league leading Raiders had vowed revenge in the Richmond papers as the embarrassment of being held to a tie by the news guys on the block was still stinging. Richmond coach Larry Wilson was adamant that his club would handle the Sun this time around. A crowd of 2100 plus packed the Apple Bowl, in part to see if the Sun could knock off the Raiders, but as much just to see this Richmond team they had been reading about since the Okanagan was granted a franchise more than a year earlier.
Whether is was luck, or the Sun just matching up well with the Raiders, the team entered the 4th quarter with the Sun leading 17-13. The Sun defense, which had been the strength of the first 5 games showed itself again with two strong 4th quarter stands. Stuffing the Raiders on a 3rd and 1 at the Sun 10-yard line, the defense watched as the Sun offense fumbled the ball the very next play, giving Richmond a first down at the Sun 6. The defense would hold again, forcing the visitors to settle for a single point following a missed field goal from the Sun 14. With the score 17-14 in favor of the Sun, the Raiders Wes Lavallee connected on a 32-yard field goal to knot the score at 17. With no time on the clock, the Sun’s Bill Long attempted a game winning 42-yard field goal that fell just short.
The Sun wouldn’t make the play offs this season, the only time it has failed to qualify for the post season. And later in the year, the Raiders and Sun would meet again for a third time, and the Raiders would get the revenge they had promised this week. But on this day, following a second 17-17 deadlock with the league’s best, the Okanagan Sun had shown junior football in BC a sign of things to come.
2001 BCFC Championship
Apple Bowl, Kelowna
The Sun came into this one as defending national champs to take on an “overmatched” opponent at the Apple Bowl. At stake was the BC title and a trip to Montreal to play the St. Leonard Cougars in the national semi-final. Problem was, someone forgot to tell the Huskers they were not supposed to win this game and with three minutes to go in the first half, Chilliwack was up 21-0. Husker players were still taunting the Sun bench with chants of “we’ll send you postcards from Montreal”, when Adrien Kellman had a simply amazing 75 yard punt return for a touchdown to breath some life into the home side. The Huskers still lead 21-7 with 2 minutes to play in the first half and you could sense a bit of nerves creeping up on the visitors. Sure enough, it was the beginning of an onslaught the Huskers were ill equipped to handle as the Sun added 32 more points in the second half. Stew Vanderheide lead the way at running back against his former team with 156 yards along the ground in the second half alone.
1993 Regular Season
Apple Bowl, Kelowna
If you blinked in this game, you would miss something! The Rams and their high-octane offense lead by quarterback Shawn Olson jumped all over the Sun and lead 21-0 early in the third quarter. The Sun’s own offense meanwhile, was on its heels all night as the front seven of the Rams spent the majority of the night in QB Jason Crumb’s face. With 7 minutes gone in the third frame, Rams defensive end Jermaine Haley had Crumb all but wrapped up for a sack when Jason put a move on him to avoid the hit that Haley would still talk about two years later. Crumb managed to hit a wide- open Scott Zumack for a 26 yard touchdown. The Rams would fumble the ball on their own 6 on the next play from scrimmage, the Sun capitalized to make the score 21-14 and the comeback was on!
The Apple Bowl crowd was still celebrating as the Sun continued to pounce on Ram miscues, this one a 37 yard interception for a TD to give Okanagan a 28-21 lead. Not to be denied, the Rams managed their own comeback as Olson hit receiver Brian Remming for a 47 yard Hail-Mary to even the score with 2 minutes to go. You have to think neither Sun head coach Darren Brezden, nor his counterpart Nick Kawaza were happy with the opportunities their teams let slip away, but you can’t say the fans weren’t entertained
2003 BCFC Championship
Apple Bowl, Kelowna
Winning 8 consecutive conference titles (1995-2002) is a great accomplishment and of course something a team should be proud of. Such a gaudy streak though, does manage to inspire a level of complacency in your side, while its also fires up the opponent in a big way. That was the case this game as the Sun took on the Victoria Rebels in the BCFC final for the 4th time in the past 5 years.
The tone was set at the get go as an overpowering Rebels front seven not only sacked Sun quarterback Brady Pimlott on the first two plays from scrimmage, they seemed to take a bit of a mental advantage over the Sun bench. While the Sun defense kept the Rebels in check for the most part, momentum never really left the islanders. The Sun offense, although greatly out-gaining the Rebels in total offense, was held in check by the visitors and really only had one sustained drive on the day. That occurring late in the 4th quarter was too little too late, and also turned back by Victoria’s defense. Two Sun turn-overs, deep in their own end of the field were taken advantage of by the opportunistic Victoria offense and would be all they needed to end the Sun’s reign as BCFC champs
It was a quiet Apple Bowl crowd that filed from the stadium on this cloudy day, in the air and on the field… as a boisterous Rebels team hosted the Cullen Cup for the first time. 20-0 read the scoreboard and it would eat at every Sun player and coach until training camp began the next season
1990 BCJFA Championship
Bear Creek Park, Surrey
The Rams earned crucial home field advantage for this tilt after beating the Sun in their lone regular season meeting a month earlier. The Sun’s three- year grip on the BC title would have to go through Surrey this year.
The turning point in this game would occur with less than a minute to play in the first half and the Sun leading 10-1. Rams QB Tom Clancy first scrambled in to the Sun end zone on a 3rd and 2 from the Sun 2 yard line. The Rams weren’t done with their gutsy play calling just yet as they caught the Sun kick return team napping with a short kick off the next play. Clancy then quickly marched the ball into current Saskatchewan Roughriders’ kicker Paul McCallum’s range, who split the uprights from 38 yards out. Before they knew it, the Sun went to the dressing room trailing 11-10 and the Rams never let go of the momentum they had. Rams defensive back Joe Billy had the game of a lifetime, as he intercepted 5 Adrian Rainbow passes on the day.
This was the Rams first BC title and sparked a rivalry between the teams that would see them battle each other in the BC championship game 6 consecutive seasons
1994 Regular Season
Swangard Stadium, Vancouver
Game three of the season and the Sun found themselves in a position they had not been in since 1981, 0-2 after opening losses against Abbotsford and Surrey. With Sun directors ready to cut their wrists and two newspapers on the coast writing off the Sun for the year, the club headed into Swangard Stadium to get back on track against their favorite whipping boys of the 90’s, the Vancouver Trojans. This one was expected to be a cakewalk.
Early season struggles continued and a combination of a game and determined Trojan team, and a Sun group that couldn’t get on track had the Sun clinging to a 7-3 lead with less than 3 minutes to go on the clock. The stingy Trojan defense stood tall late in the game and forced Okanagan into a punting situation from deep in their end of the field. As Sun punter Jason Attwood stood at his own 23 yard line, the snap sailed over his head. 5 Trojans were at “Woody’s” heels as he chased down the football that had come to rest on the Sun’s 7 yard line. Rather than fall on the ball and give Vancouver an excellent opportunity for a short game winning drive, he alertly kicked the ball through the end zone. The safety he conceded cut the lead to 2 points, but allowed the Sun to kick off and force Vancouver to maintain a longer drive to win. The Sun defense held the following drive, sealing the victory.
The club would go on to finish the season 8-2
1991 Regular Season
Rotary Stadium, Abbotsford
This game won’t go down in Sun history for it’s suspense. One of those days where everything went right…or wrong, depending on which side of the fence you are on! One doubts the Air Force were entertaining any ideas of beating the Sun this day in Abbotsford. Okanagan was on cruise towards the play-offs, while Abbotsford was struggling to stay out of last place in the conference. They were hoping for better than this though.
The game was not a quarter old and the Sun were up 28-0. Making the score even more surprising was that both members of the starting backfield (running back Noel Chipman and fullback Scott McFarland) left the game due to minor injuries. 8 different players would score, as the suspect Abbotsford defense was often forced to battle on a short field. The Sun only had 370 yards offence total, not needing more than that as the defense made the Air Force offense want to forget this day. This score holds as the greatest margin of victory the Sun have had, while kicker / receiver Tony Lindsay established a personal record that should stand the test of time, chipping in twelve converts