On a chilly day in Regina, the Sun came out and warmed up Mosaic Stadium.
The BCFC’s Okanagan Sun won their third Canadian Bowl title on Saturday, defeating the Regina Thunder 21-19 in the 114th edition of Canada’s junior football championship.
The Thunder entered the game as the favourites because of a 22-year-long losing streak for BC-based teams coming to the prairies when the weather turns from fall to winter. In the end, the Sun played precisely how you need to play in order to win cold weather games, with a strong defence and punishing running game.
“You know what? It was way colder the first day we got here. So, today felt great.” said Sun receiver Mike O’Shea, son of the CFL head coach of the same name.
“Once you put on a couple of layers, that prairie cold isn’t wet. It doesn’t bite through the clothes.”
The Sun’s third title didn’t seem like a sure thing early on. After a scoreless opening quarter, the Thunder jumped out to a 14-0 lead with rushing touchdowns from star running back Ryland Leichert and quarterback Carter Shewchuk. A rouge eventually made it 15-0 for the home team.
The game took a turn toward the end of the first half when quarterback Dominic Britton hit receiver Colby Milleto for a six-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock in the second quarter. From then on out, the Thunder only managed four points thanks to a Sun defence that didn’t let Leichert beat them on the ground, something that had been the Thunder’s strength all season.
“Our defence is the best in the country, no doubt,” said O’Shea. “They do the most preparation, they do the most work. It shows on the field.”
Leichert finished the game with 77 yards on 22 carries. He had come into the game averaging 90 yards a game along the ground. On the other side of the field, Sun running back Jevan Garwood gashed the Thunder for 128 yards and a touchdown.
“I trust my o-line. I kept going, kept being positive and kept pushing the ball and we got it done,” Garwood said.
O’Shea added the Sun’s other touchdown with a 24-yard reception late in the third quarter, giving Okanagan their first lead of the game 21-17 over Regina. That ended up being the game-winning score, as the Sun conceded a safety late in the fourth quarter but that was all the points the Thunder could muster down the stretch. The celebration was on for the visitors.
For O’Shea, it could be the start of a special week with his father hoping to achieve his own celebration at Mosaic Stadium on November 20 with his Winnipeg Blue Bombers hot on the tail of a Grey Cup three-peat.
“I hope so, yeah. It’s a big game,” O’Shea said of Sunday’s West Final matchup with the B.C. Lions. “I’m going to be watching, it’s going to be exciting.”