To be continued — perhaps in the Cullen Cup B.C. Football Conference final in October.
The annual contender franchises, Westshore Rebels and Okanagan Sun, played to an 18-18 draw on Saturday before a decent-sized gallery at Westhills Stadium in Langford. Both remain undefeated at 1-0-1.
The scoreline belied a frenetic fourth quarter. Blitzing Rebels linebacker Byron MacKinnon strip-sacked Okanagan quarterback Matthew Mahler, and lineman Lowhya Lako picked up the fumble, and scooted 65 yards for a touchdown to give Westshore an 18-17 lead with 2:42 remaining. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Defensive standout Tye Kitzman of the Sun then blocked a Westshore punt to allow Okanagan to take possession deep in Rebels territory. That was only to have Okanagan kicker Isaac Wegner miss a chip-shot 20-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining, gaining the single point for the tie, instead of the three points for the victory. Wegner had successfully hit on a 42-yard field goal earlier.
Lako, meanwhile, showed revealing speed for a big lineman in taking the fumble to the house in the earlier big moment.
“I ran track in high school in Windsor,” he said. “Trailing by five points with less than three minutes remaining, just falling on the ball wasn’t an option,” added Lako, who was named a second team all-star representing the gold-medallist Canadian junior national team at the 2016 U-19 world championship in China.
“You need to have situational awareness. When I saw the ball sitting there, and clear grass in front of me, I knew I had to pick it up and run.”
That made up for a quirky play earlier in the fourth quarter that denied the Rebels the lead.
Trailing 15-10, Westshore quarterback Mason Brown hit lanky receiver Kaine Stevenson for what looked to be the 45-yard go-ahead touchdown. But the ball was knocked from Stevenson’s hand just as he stretched out and looked to break the plane of the end zone. The referees saw otherwise and ruled it a touchback.
Westshore was trailing 15-3 in the third quarter when Brown found Cody Holmes to make it 15-10.
It was the second time in as many weeks the Rebels have rallied in the fourth quarter to secure at least a point. Westshore came from behind to edge the rejuvenated Langley Rams 19-16 in their season opener last weekend.
“Our team never quits,” Lako said.
“We run all day in practice, so we never quit in games. We have to credit the coaching staff for that. We have energy to fight right to the end.”