After a few relatively cloudy campaigns — at least by their standards — the Sun appears to be shining again in the Okanagan.
The Westshore Rebels will meet the Okanagan Sun, with reportedly the best 2018 recruiting class in the B.C. Football Conference, in a key early-season game today at 4 p.m. at Westhills Stadium.
The Sun flashed its rediscovered brilliance with a 56-6 opening blowout last weekend against the Kamloops Broncos.
The defending regular-season champion Rebels, meanwhile, rallied late for a 19-16 victory in their season opener on the Lower Mainland against the Langley Rams, rebuilt under legendary former Rebels and Vancouver Islander Raiders coach Matt (Snoop) Blokker.
“It’s like being thrown into the fire twice in two weeks to start the season,” Rebels head coach Charly Cardilicchia said.
The Rebels bench boss believes his team’s initial ordeal by fire will be an advantage today.
“Going up against coach Blokker’s reputation [as the winningest coach in BCFC history and second winningest in Canadian junior football history], we were in a four-quarter dogfight last week with emotional lows and highs,” Cardilicchia said.
“Okanagan, by comparison, wrapped up their opening game a lot earlier.”
A key recruiting objective for Westshore has been to fill the quarterbacking spot vacated by 2017 starter Scott Borden, now with the University of Manitoba Bisons in U Sports.
The new starter is Mason Brown from Hamilton, Ont., who most recently played in U Sports for the Acadia Axemen in Nova Scotia.
Brown had a strong opening game in Langley, dropping a dime to receiver Nathan Falito for the winning touchdown pass in the fourth-quarter.
“Mason Brown is a difference-maker,” said Cardilicchia, noting he is the son of former Tiger-Cat Jeff Brown.
“Mason can make the throws and can also make plays with his feet.”
With Falito and fellow-touted receivers Kaine Stevenson and D’Saun Greenaway, it appears Brown has no shortage of targets.
They, however, will be tested today by Okanagan’s ball-hawking defence, led by backfield standout Tye Kitzman, who followed up his six interceptions from last season by returning a pick to the house last week against Kamloops.
No vacancy has been bigger to fill for Westshore than that of 2017 BCFC rushing leader Trey Campbell, who has moved on to U Sports. The answer looks to be running back Khaliel James, who ran for a Rebels touchdown last week in Langley.
Today’s game will be a rematch of the 2016 Cullen Cup BCFC final, won by the Rebels over the Sun at Westhills.
Meanwhile, the defending BCFC champion Vancouver Island Raiders’ home opener is today at 2:30 p.m. against the Broncos at Caledonia Park. It follows last week’s shocking 33-31 opening-game Raiders collapse in Chilliwack against a Fraser Valley Huskers franchise that had not won in three seasons, spanning 30 games. The Raiders led 31-3 before the Huskers pulled off one of the greatest comebacks, if not upsets, in BCFC history to collect their first victory since going 1-9 in 2014.
The 2018 BCFC regular season runs to Oct. 13, with the top four teams advancing to the playoff semifinals the following week. The Cullen Cup will be played Oct. 27 at the home of the finalist with the best regular-season record.
The BCFC champion will host the Ontario Football Conference champion in the national interprovincial semifinal on Nov. 3. The winner of that game will advance to meet the host Prairie Football Conference champion in the Canadian Bowl on Nov. 10.