The entire season has lead to this point.
On Saturday, the Okanagan Sun will take on the Saskatoon Hilltops in Saskatoon for the Canadian Bowl, the ultimate prize of the Canadian Junior Football League. The Sun are coming off the heels of a dominant regular and post season that saw them go undefeated and outscore their opponents 617 to 115 en route to their first British Columbia Football Conference championship and Canadian Bowl appearance since 2004. The Sun have won the Canadian Bowl twice before, with victories in 1988 and 2000, with the second win coming against the Hilltops in Kelowna.
There is one historical stat that is against the Sun; they’ve never won on the prairies before. However, head coach Shane Beatty doesn’t care about that. What he does care about is the matchup.
“We’re a strong team, we matchup well, it just depends how physical they want to be and how physical we want to be,” he said. “We’ve gotta stop their run. And no one’s gone in there and beaten them (referring to the Sun on the prairies) but it’s been minus fifteen, minus twenty. It’s going to be nine degrees on Saturday, it’s gonna be like we’re playing in Florida.”
Beatty feels great heading into the game, as the players are excited and very focused. Although they know this is a big game for the program, the Sun is approaching the championship tilt just like every other one of their 12 games this season.
“We’ve gotta stop number 21,” Beatty explained, referring to Hilltops running back Logan Fischer, who ran for 794 yards and five touchdowns on 94 regular season carries. “They’re physical, they’re big upfront and they’re well coached. We’ve gotta stop 21 and then make them pass. We’ve got a couple double coverages for their big receiver, they’ve got a 6’5″ 230 pound receiver we’re going to have to double up a couple times and show some different coverages, through some different looks at the quarterback. But we’ve gotta stop the run first.”
After losing in the British Columbia Football Conference finals last season, the Sun’s goal this year was to win its division; something it accomplished with an emphatic exclamation point.
“It feels great for us and the program, it’s vindication of all the hard work the kids have put in,” Beatty described. “It’s a great feeling, it’s just not enough. It’s not finished, we know we can go in there and beat these guys.”
While the Sun were dominant throughout the season, they have been hearing from the prairie teams that they simply played in a weak division. But for Beatty and all of the players, that talk is nothing more than bulletin board material.