For the first time since 2000 the Okanagan Sun are CJFL Canadian Bowl champions after a 21-19 victory over the Regina Thunder.
It was a very cold afternoon in Regina, but the Sun was shining in more ways than one. Down 15-7 at the half the Sun came out strong in the third quarter converting two touchdowns including a gutsy 24-yard touchdown pass on a third and two when Dominic Britton connected with Mike O’Shea. It turned out to be the game winning score.
The Thunder actually opened the scoring in the second quarter when running back Ryland Leichert punched the ball in from two yards out. Just three minutes later after a Thunder defensive stop Carter Shewchuk led his club back down the field and capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.
With time winding down in the first half the Sun offence started to change the momentum and drove down the field. On the final snap before halftime Britton found Colby Milleto from six yards out for a touchdown getting the Sun on the board. It would be his only reception of the game.
After conceding a safety the Sun continued that momentum in the third quarter and started to chew up yards with All-Canadian running back Jevon Garwood. At 9:53 of the frame he busted through the line with speed and sprinted to a 53-yard touchdown cutting the Thunder lead to 17-14.
The Sun would take their first lead of the game on the 24-yard touchdown strike to O’Shea. This drive was set up by a Dawon Puk interception at midfield.
From there the Sun defence took over with a pair of massive third down stops late in the fourth quarter. Incredibly they kept the Thunder off the scoreboard in the second half other than two conceded safeties.
All-Canadian Kelon Thomas had an outstanding game with two solo tackles and 1.5 sacks putting pressure on the Thunder offence all game long. Peyton Ryder was also strong with a team high five solo tackles and three assisted stops.
The offence was led by Garwood and his 128 yards on 21 carries and the touchdown. Britton completed 16 passes for 130 yards, finding Milleto and O’Shea for majors. O’Shea finished with a game high five catches for 69 yards.
For the Thunder, it was their only loss of the season. Shewchuk completed 18 passes for 188 yards and Leichert rushed 22 times for 77 yards.
Their defence was led by Stephen Smith who made five tackles and had seven assisted tackles. Matthew Schill was also a factor with four tackles and put pressure on the Sun backfield.
This is the third national title for the Okanagan Sun after winning in 1988 and 2000 and it’s their first ever victory on the Prairies. As a matter of fact, it is just the second time a team from BC has traveled to Saskatchewan and won a game. The other time was in 2008 when the VI Raiders beat the Saskatoon Hilltops.
Following the Canadian Bowl the CJFL awarded the players of the game:
Offensive – Jevon Garwood – 21 carries for 128 yards and a 53-yard touchdown run
Defensive – Dawson Puk – 2 solo tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 interception returned for 16 yards
Special Teams – Mike O’Shea – 7 returns for 108 yards
It’s the oldest Canadian football championship will see the Regina Thunder host their second Canadian Bowl since 2013 as they host the Okanagan Sun. The Thunder won that game in 2013 while the Sun are searching for their first title since 2000.
The Canadian Bowl has seen some unbelievable moments and displays of true determination. In 2022 the National Championship game will be held in Regina at Mosaic Stadium for the first since 2013.
The BC Conference won the title last season and will look to make it two in a row for the first time since 2008 and 2009.
A quick glance at the 2022 Canadian Bowl:
Okanagan Sun @ Regina Thunder - Saturday November 12 @ 1:00pm – Mosaic Stadium
Records: Sun 10-0 – Thunder 8-0 – Playoffs Sun 3-0 – Thunder 2-0
Average Points Per Game: Sun 44.8 – Thunder 35.7
Average Points Against: Sun 13.5 – Thunder 16.2
Passing Leaders: Dominic Britton – 122 of 210 for 2086 yards and 24 touchdowns (Sun) – Carter Shewchuk – 157 of 250 for 2351 yards, 18 touchdowns (Thunder)
Rushing Leaders: Jevon Garwood – 115 carries for 920 yards and 9 touchdowns (Sun) – Ryland Leichert – 124 carries for 724 yards and 4 touchdowns (Thunder)
Receiving Leaders: Noah Bymak – 33 receptions for 616 yards and 9 touchdowns (Sun) – Rylan Sokul – 44 receptions for 669 yards and 4 touchdowns (Thunder)
Leadering Tacklers: Peyton Ryder – 36 tackles (Sun) – Stephen Smith – 29 tackles (Thunder)
Sack Leaders: Romareo Reid – 12.5 sacks (Sun) – Reece McCormick – 3 sacks (Thunder)
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.