Photo courtesy of Jason Harding
The Okanagan Sun finished first in the BC Conference in 2018 and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs. However the Langley Rams caught fire at the right time and beat up the Sun at the Apple Bowl to capture the Cullen Cup.
It’s been a long offseason and the Sun have been retooling for another run at the BC title and an opportunity to host the 2019 Canadian Bowl.
The biggest and most visible change is at the top as former CJFLer and CFLer Jamie Boreham takes over as head coach after Ben McCauley stepped down following last season. This is Boreham’s first head coaching role in the CJFL after playing for the Abbotsford Airforce. He also spent nine seasons in the CFL with Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Toronto, winning the 2007 Grey Cup with the Riders.
LB Cody Thompson was the anchor of a stifling defence a year ago making 10 solo tackles, had a sack and a knockdown.
QB/DB Keith Zyla is simply an athlete able to play multiple positions. In his time with the Sun he was the starting quarterback, a receiver and played in the secondary. Last year after injuries to the starting and backup quarterbacks Zyla was thrust back into action. He completed 20 passes for 285 yards and threw a pair of touchdown passes.
DB Tye Kitzman was rock solid in the Sun secondary winning back to back All-Star awards and seems to always be among the team leaders in tackles. Last season he had 20 stops, blocked a kick, had five knockdowns, recovered two fumbles and had four interceptions including a 56 yard pick-six.
What They Need:
The Sun are in need of depth at every position. With a new head coach and staff they will evaluate all their options and try to fill their positions accordingly.
DB Conor Richard returns after an All-Canadian season a year ago. He has turned into one of the best defensive players in the CJFL with a nose for the ball. Last season he had an incredible six blocked kicks, six sacks, 20 solo tackles and a defensive touchdown.
DB Tyler Going had a breakout season last year and the Sun are hoping for more this year. He led the Sun with 31 tackles and six interceptions including a 54 yard pick-six. He also recorded two sacks, three knockdowns, two forced fumbles and had a pair of fumble recoveries.
QB Alex Douglas is new to the Sun from Toronto. He is a veteran player that will fight in main camp to get the starting position under centre. He is a former highly sought after recruit signing with the University of Guelph. Coach Boreham says they are expecting big things from him, but obviously his success will rely heavily on the offensive line led by tackle Dan Townsend.
Photo courtesy of Crazy Bees Photography
One of the best CJFL stories of last season was the resurgence of the Valley Huskers. They clinched a playoff berth with a 6-4 record and defeated the VI Raiders and Okanagan Sun for the first time in their franchise history. This season they will be looking for more.
The Huskers again will have a new look without outstanding quarterback Julian Wytinck who has graduated from the CJFL. He leaves behind some big shoes to fill for the reigning CJFL Coach of the Year Bob Reist who believes they have the right formula for others to step up and succeed.
The biggest change for the Huskers this season is on the coaching staff. Reist returns but has surrounded himself with a multitude of talented men with excellent football knowledge. Blair Atkinson from the University of Manitoba is the new offensive coordinator; former Langley Rams head coach Jeff Alamolhoda will coach the linebackers and the front. Also from the University of Manitoba Will Sheils has come on board to coach the receivers.
One other change will be seen on the road when the Huskers wear new road jerseys to match their home uniforms from last season.
QB Julian Wytinck completed 54% of his passes last year with 17 touchdowns on 189 completions and tallied 2,745 yards. He was named the BC Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
WR Anthony Dyck was a lethal weapon for Wytinck and the Huskers offence last year. He was named BC Conference most Outstanding Receiver with 46 receptions, 830 yards with a Conference high 11 touchdowns and averaged 18 yards a catch.
DB Daniel Mills was a force on the defensive side with 15 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, recovered a fumble and picked off a pass.
What They Need:
The Huskers felt like their defensive line needed some work this offseason. They recruited heavily for that position and feel like they have added some good pieces into the mix and are looking forward to see who steps up in main camp to win a starting spot.
DB/RET/RB Marcel Arruda-Welch: He comes to the Huskers following a season at the University Manitoba. The Winnipeg native had 26 tackles last season as a defensive back. He combined for 39 kick returns for 678 yards.
LB David Steeves: After spending the last four seasons at Trinity Bible College in North Dakota the Winnipeg native comes to the Huskers. He was three-time National Christian College All-American amassing 242 tackles, 13 sacks and set a school record for most forced fumbles in a career. He also took part in the CFL’s Regional Combine in Montreal this past spring.
WR/RET Brandon Poulin: He was a two-time CJFL All-Canadian last season. He made a CJFL high 63 receptions for 878 yards and scored five majors. He averaged 13.9 yards a catch. He was also dangerous on special teams returning kicks with 56 returns for 846 yards and had a 93 yard return for a touchdown.
Photo courtesy of Crazy Bees Photography
The Valley Huskers are in the middle of hosting their 2019 Spring Camp in Chilliwack.
They are one of the last teams across the CJFL to host their camp; hoping players will sign with their club immediately following their experience.
The Huskers are coming off one of their most successful seasons making the BC Conference playoffs in 2018 and finishing with a winning record.
Head coach Bob Reist speaks with Ryan Watters about camp and expectations coming into the upcoming CJFL season.