Rebels ball carrier Jamel Lyles strides for a late touchdown during a Sept. 10 win over Okanagan. Westshore hopes to replicate that success Saturday when they host the Sun in the Cullen Cup final game.

Rebels set for championship bout with Sun

The Westshore Rebels are a step away from hosting their first-ever Canadian Bowl, but a lot of work remains.

The dust has settled on the Westshore Rebels’ heart-pounding semifinal triumph over the Vancouver Island Raiders and the club is now preparing to host the Cullen Cup for the first time in team history.

The Okanagan Sun will be the Rebels’ opponents this Saturday at Westhills Stadium (Oct. 29, 4 p.m. kickoff) in Langford. The defending B.C. Football Conference champions downed the Langley Rams in overtime on Oct. 23 to punch their ticket to a third straight title game.

Rebels head coach J.C. Boice was pleased with how his team handled adversity down the stretch against the Raiders, with Westshore rallying for the game winning touchdown drive following a late onside kick recovery by the visiting Raiders.

“I’m incredibly proud of our kids … their commitment to each other and their resilience for the game,” he said.

Still, there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to the team’s passing game and special teams, Boice added.

“We have to have improved special teams and our staff is very hard at work on that,” he said of a unit that allowed the  Raiders to recover the onside kick and also  block a pair of kicks.

“Our tackling has to improve and our quarterback play has to improve. (Ashton) Mackinnon struggled in the first half, but I was very pleased with the way he finished the fourth quarter,” Boice said.

Mackinnon was instrumental in orchestrating the Rebels’ game-winning score and produced a pair of touchdowns and 79 rushing yards as a major factor on the ground, but found little success through the air prior to the game’s final drive – he passed for 105 yards and threw a pair of interceptions in poor weather conditions. That’ll need to change if the Rebels are to move past the Sun and on to the Canadian Bowl.

A big part of the Sun’s regular season success stemmed from the team’s 17 interceptions across 10 games, and protecting the football will be a focus for the Rebels heading into Saturday’s showdown.

Mackinnon threw for three interceptions the last time these two teams met, a 29-23 Westshore win on Sept. 10.

Even with an emphasis on improving the passing game, the Rebels’ offence still runs through the star-studded backfield of Jamel Lyles and Trey Campbell.

The Sun surrendered just 89.8 rushing yards per game to opponents in the regular season, but Lyles gashed them for 121 yards on 13 carries earlier this season in Kelowna, and the Rebels piled up 175 yards on the ground in their Sept. 10 win.

Though Lyles has the eye-popping numbers, the Sun recognize he won’t be the only weapon they’ll have to stop if they are to pull out a win.

“They’re good in other places on offense, they’re talented with the pass, and their quarterback (Ashton) McKinnon runs the ball well,” said Okanagan defensive coordinator Nathan Mollard. “Obviously we want to try and take away what they do best with Lyles, but their second best is pretty good, too.”

Defensively, the Rebels should be a confident group following a stellar showing against the Raiders, especially late in the fourth quarter when a Vancouver Island touchdown may have put the game out of reach.

Sun quarterback Foster Martens left the semifinal with an apparent head injury and his status for Saturday’s matchup was unknown as of Wednesday.

Whoever is under centre, be it Martens or backup Keith Zyla, they won’t have an easy task against a stout Rebels’ front, led by pass rushing linemen Byron Mackinnon and Kent Hicks, and an improving secondary.

The Sun suffered through some late-season doldrums that started with the loss to Westshore, continued with an inter-conference thumping at the hands of the Saskatoon Hilltops, and continued with a defeat against the Raiders.

Okanagan righted their listing ship with back-to-back wins over the Rams and Boice and the Rebels are prepared for a difficult test against a club that remains proud of its competitive pedigree.

“They’re a good football team. They’d been in a bit of a slump, but they played really good football against Langley,” Boice said.

“They’re very good on defence, they’re very good at running the ball and they’ve got some good (receivers) on the perimeter.”

One of their most imposing weapons is wideout Rashaun Simonise, a former CIS standout with the Calgary Dinos who was a member of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals until becoming a late training camp casualty in early September.

“We’ve got some challenges ahead of us,” Boice said.

The winner of Saturday’s matchup will host the representative of the Prairie Football Conference in this year’s Canadian Bowl national championship game.

The game will take place at Westhills Stadium should the Rebels move past the Sun.

For ticket information or other details about this Saturday’s game. visit westshorerebels.com.

Just Posted

Canada Women’s Rugby 7s Team land at home after series triumph

Next stop at Langford offers Olympic qualification

Saanich soccer player survives bout with flesh eating disease

Harinder Sandhu picked up the disease after soccer game

Two-sailing waits continue Victoria to Tsawwassen

Backlog continues despite extra sailings over Easter

Second earthquake in less than two hours strikes off Vancouver Island

The first earthquake happened at 1:27 p.m., the second at 2:44 p.m.

PHOTOS: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says ‘I do’ on Earth Day

May and John Kidder got married Monday morning in Victoria

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

United Way opens grants to help charities tackle social issues

Charities north of the Malahat can apply for grants $2,000 to $20,000

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Man’s body found in popular Cowichan Valley hiking area

Police say death not suspicious after discovery in Stoney Hill area overlooking Saltspring Island

Multiple sailing waits as BC Ferries deals with Easter Monday traffic

89 extra sailings had been added to the long weekend schedule

Vancouver Island-based company provides glass alternatives to plastic straws

Enviro Glass Straws now producing more than 60,000 straws each year

Most Read