The Okanagan Sun became a member of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) in the BC Conference for the first time in 1981. In their 39 years of play, they have been the most consistent dominate team in British Columbia.
The Sun have recorded the most wins all-time and have a record of 297-66-9 for a winning percentage of 818%.
They have played out of the Apple Bowl since their inception and have created a home field that is difficult for visiting teams to win in. Since 1984, they have a home record of 143-24-4. The natural grass surface at the Apple Bowl is the last of its kind in the CJFL as all over 17 teams now play on turf.
Over the years the Sun have finished in first place in the BC Conference a total of 20 times. They also have 11 consecutive first places finishes from 1995-2005. They have made the BC Conference playoffs a record 38 consecutive years and have an overall playoff record of 45-24. They have won 15 Cullen Cup championships with their first coming in 1983. Between 1995 and 2002, they won eight consecutive BC titles.
The Sun have played in eight Canadian Bowls, winning two (1988 & 2000). They defeated the Burlington Jr Tiger Cats for their first and the Saskatoon Hilltops twelve years later for their second. They were the first team in CJFL history to play in five consecutive Canadian Bowl championships from 1997-2001.
Five players and two coaches have been honoured at the national level. Running back Ron Arnold was named the CJFL Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year in 1997, running back Terrance Huston in 1998 and quarterback Zack Silverman in 2000.
On the other side of the ball defensive lineman Steven Doege was named the CJFL’s Top Defender in 2011.
In 2004 Duncan Acres was honoured as the CJFL Past Commissioner Community Service Award winner.
A pair of Sun coaches have won the CJFL Gordon Currie Coach of the Year Award; Pete McCall in 2010 and Shane Beatty was twice honoured in 2014 and 2015.
Several former Sun players have moved onto the CFL ranks over the years:
Saleem Borhot – Edmonton Eskimos
Jay Christensen – BC Lions / Calgary Stampeders / Edmonton Eskimos / Ottawa Red Blacks
Nate Coehoorn – Edmonton Eskimos
Mike Crumb – BC Lions / Toronto Argonauts
Adam Eckert– Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Moe Elewonibi – BC Lions / Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Chad Folk – Toronto Argonauts
Ryan Folk – Montreal Alouettes
James Green – Toronto Argonauts
Dexter Janke – Calgary Stampeders / Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Mike Marasco – BC Lions
Spencer McLennan – BC Lions / Montreal Alouettes / Winnipeg Blue Bombers
David Pitcher – Saskatchewan Roughriders
Stefen Reid – Montreal Alouettes
Dounia Whitehouse – Edmonton Eskimos
Spencer Wilson – Calgary Stampeders
Quick Sun Facts:
Conference – BC Conference
Location – 1555 Burtch Rd. Kelowna
Sun President – Parker Evans
Head Coach – Jamie Boreham
Stadium – Apple Bowl
Social Handle - @okanagansun / @okanagan_sun
Motto – #sunwin #sunriseup
Primary Colours – Brown and Orange
Photo courtesy of Louis Christ Photography
CJFL Commissioner Jim Pankovich has demonstrated an incredible amount of leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and has been named the 2020 CJFL Stewart MacDonald Executive Of The Year.
Starting from the very early days of the pandemic, Jim had envisioned the difficult path that was before us and began to strategize and approach to deal with the situation.
Jim’s calm, cool, and measured approach kept the Canadian Junior Football League on track to making a difficult decision based on a tremendous amount of information from multiple sources. The outcome ultimately wound up being the best decision one could make for the safety and well being for the athletes, coaches and entire CJFL.
The Commissioner spent hundreds of hours, talking with experts, politicians, doctors, CFL football executives and a multitude of CJFL members throughout the country in the early stages of the pandemic. Jim had developed a primary plan as well as many multi leveled and layered contingency plans and was able to present these to stakeholders in a matter that had led to the consistent buy in and ownership of all the parties involved.
His in-depth analysis and planning put the CJFL in a place where the league moved methodically forward while maintaining an optimistic view for what was to come. Timelines were developed for primary and secondary strategies, input was requested and documented and thoroughly discussed with all the key stakeholders allowing for educated thought through debates and decisions.
Although the cancellation of the 2020 season and the Canadian Bowl was not the desire of anyone, when it came time to make that decision everyone was confident that the league had viewed and analyzed all angles and the best decision for the safety of the whole was made. Despite the gravity of this decision the CJFL holds the belief that we are still in a strong position to succeed going forward and faith or optimism has not been lost for future seasons. This was accomplished only because Jim’s complete dedication and commitment to ensure no stone was left unturned before a decision was made. His desire and professional, positive attitude was the glue that held the CJFL executive together throughout this challenging time.
The CJFL did not react hastily nor erratically when it came time to cancel the 2020 season. Jim epitomized the old-World War II mantra of “stay calm and carry on.”
Jim has won this award previously in 2015, and it is a testament to his extreme ability to lead our league that he is awarded the Executive Of The Year five years later. Many have discussed that with Jim Pankovich at the vanguard of this crisis, we were never in a position of defeat but in a position of growth and evolution of the game of junior football in Canada.
The only Canadian Bowl that needed overtime was the 1997 game in Kelowna when the Regina Rams beat the Okanagan Sun 23-20 in an absolute classic.
Coming into the game the Rams were a perennial powerhouse winning three Canadian Bowl titles in four seasons; winning in 1993, 1994 and 1995. The Sun meanwhile were a powerhouse in the BC Conference in the 90’s and had faced the Rams in the national semi-final game in 1995 and lost 11-8.
The 1997 Canadian Bowl was played in front of 6200 screaming fans at the Apple Bowl and featured two very talented offensive players in Jason Clermont of the Rams and running back Terrance Huston of the Sun and both played a major factor during this game.
After a scoreless first quarter the Rams piled on 17 points in the second quarter and led 17-3 at the half. The score stayed that way entering the fourth quarter when the Sun offensive finally came alive. They scored 14 points in the final frame to tie the game and force overtime.
Nothing was settled in the first overtime session, so the teams who, were tired and banged up were forced to play a second session. The Sun worked the ball all the way down to the three yard line but couldn’t punch it in with 1:20 left on the clock. Instead they had to settle for a Derek Korstrom 10 yard field goal to give them the lead for the first time in the game. Overtime in the CJFL is not sudden death.
The Rams then had 75 seconds on the clock to get into field goal range themselves to potentially tie it starting at their own 35 yard line. After a couple of pass completions the Rams were down to the Sun 45 yard line. Quarterback Chad Ehman who had a very strong game then threw two incompletions to set up third down and 10 with 28 seconds to go. Instead of trying a 50+ yard field goal the Rams went for it and it paid off. Ehman found Clermont who was wide open on a dump pass, then scampered 42 yards all the way down to the Sun three yard line. On the very next play Clermont punched it into the end zone for the game winning score and their fourth national championship in five seasons.
Offensively Ehman finished with 17 completions for 231 yards finding Clermont three times for 70 yards. The future CFLer also rushed five times for 13 yards including the three yard game winning touchdown. Speaking of rushing, running back Ikenna Njoka was outstanding with 19 carries for 115 yards and a five-yard touchdown run.
On the other side of the field the Sun did most of their damage on the ground behind Ron Arnold. He was punishing with 25 carries for 244 yards and a 30 touchdown sprint. Huston was held to 48 yards on the ground but he returned seven punts for 125 yards.
These two teams showed their dominance the following season meeting again in the 1998 Canadian Bowl, however this time in Regina with the Rams winning 36-13.
The 1997 game remains the only Canadian Bowl to be decided in overtime. Its remains a CJFL Canadian Bowl Classic that you can relive below.