Langford, BC (ISN) – The Westshore Rebels jumped out to a 25-0 halftime lead and held on to defeat the defending BCFC champion Okanagan Sun 32-21 to claim the British Columbia Football Conference Cullen Cup and advance to the national CJFL Canadian Bowl championship to be held in Victoria, BC November 12th at Westhills Stadium.
If you were ever to hear a prediction last year that the Rebels, despite finishing 2-8 last year, would be the 2016 Cullen Cup Champion there may have been a few chuckles under breath. Be that as it may, JC Boice and his Westshore Rebels team have quieted any naysayers this year with a turnaround season that is no short of miraculous, putting together a winning season, and now knocking on the door of a possible national championship with the BCFC championship win over a ever-talented Sun’s football team.
On the offensive side of the ball, Westshore’s Ashton MacKinnon, named the Cullen Cup Offensive Player of the Game, was commanding in engineering his team in the Sun’s defeat. MacKinnon would pass for 173 yards on 9 of 18 passing, hitting his receivers three times for TD’s.
Jamel Lyles, Trey Campbell, Tyvonn Blake, and Birhanu Yitna would all score for the Rebels in the first half.
In a balanced ground and air attack not frequently seen from the Rebels team this year, labeled as a running team, MacKinnon would orchestrate his team with seeming ease against a very strong defensive side in the Okanagan Sun.
Jamel Lyles and Ashton MacKinnon would team up for the Rebels to open the scoring, both using their legs to bring their team downfield on some great blocking by the Rebels offensive line to create gaps in the Sun’s defense. Lyles would take the ball in from the ten yard line to put the Rebels up 7-0 midway through the first quarter of play. Kyle Clarke would add a FG to put the home team up 10-0 as the Okanagan Sun, would falter to find their pace.
The Rebels would continue dominate on the defensive side of the ball, limiting QB Foster Martens and his Sun’s team to just 188 net yards in the first half. Two interceptions and two fumbles would give fuel to the Rebels engine in the half, highlighted by a Kent Hick’s forced fumble and recovery to run 55 yards downfield only to be stopped just short of a Rebels TD.
Mackinnon would find Tyvonn Blake over the middle for a twenty-five yard pass for another Rebels TD to take a commanding 17-0 lead in the second quarter without an Okanagan point to answer for.
The Rebels secondary, questioned frequently in the regular season, would haunt the Sun’s receiving core, as Brody Uddenberg and Jalen Goodson, upping their game, would come away with two picks in the quarter to sit down the Okanagan offense.
Capitalizing on costly Suns errors, MacKinnon, throwing his second TD strike in the 2nd quarter to Birhanu Yitna for thirty-nine yards, putting the Rebels up 25-0 in what seemed an insurmountable half time lead over a stunned Suns team that has claimed 14 Cullen Cups since 1983.
With that Suns pedigree, it was a given that Okanagan head coach Ben Macauley and his team would have a reply in the second half.
The Suns, needing a good start to the half, would mount a comeback charge set up by a reinvigorated defensive effort that would hold the Rebels to just seven points the duration of the game. That comeback bid would not come before Rebels MacKinnon would find RB Trey Campbell eight yards out to put the Rebels up 32-0 in the third quarter.
Costly Rebels penalties in the second half would help ignite a desperate Okanagan Sun team. The Rebels, tagged for 12 penalties for 140 yards in the half, breathed life into a Suns team that was seemingly otherwise down and out in the minds to the Rebels faithful. Holding back the Rebels offense, the Sun would go on a twenty-one-point burst, with the help of RB Kelton Kouri. Kouri would be a thorn in the Rebels defense all game, rushing for 112 yards on eleven carries to give the Sun down conversion and field position when called upon.
Suns backup QB Keith Zyla would be inserted into the game in relief of Martens, who last weekend suffered a head injury in their semi-final OT win over the Langley Rams, to lead the Okanagan charge. Zyla would equal Martens passing output, passing for 100 well-placed yards in the second half. Combined with Rebels penalties, the Sun would take advantage three times on TD’s by Zyla, Shamar Donelson, and Kyler Mosley in mounting the attempt at a comeback.
In a too little, too late desperate effort, Rebels Juslain Makambo would intercept the Zyla long ball on 3rd and 15 to all but put the nail in the proverbial coffin for the Suns, handing the Cullen Cup to the Westshore Rebels with a 32-win.
For the Rebels, this is their second Cullen Cup championship win as a Rebels organization, and their first as a Westshore team.
Most valuable player honors went to Rebels QB Ashton MacKinnon (Offensive), Juslain Makambo (Defensive), and Sun’s Pierre Luc Lord took the Special Teams award for his kick off return prowess of 90 yards on four attempts, including a 36-yard run back.
The Westshore Rebels will now face the Prairie Conference champion to be decided Sunday where the Saskatoon Hilltops square off against the Calgary Colts. The Hilltops and Colts are no strangers to the PFC finals. They have met the last three seasons, with the Hilltops taking all three PFC championships and rolled on to all three Canadian Bowl Championship titles.
The Colts’ coach, if they advance, is no stranger to Vancouver Island and the Westshore Rebels. Head Coach Matthew “Snoop” Blokker is a head coach alumni for the VI Raiders, parting company with the up island team in 2014 after a nine- year tenure with the Raiders.