Westshore Rebels running back Jamel Lyles (22)

Westshore Rebels running back Jamel Lyles (22)

Rebels hope to learn from loss to BCFC champs

Football team looks to get back on winning track this Saturday in Kamloops

No one really expected the Westshore Rebels to have a perfect season in the B.C. Football Conference.

But the junior football squad is anxious to get back on the horse after suffering their first loss of the season, 27-21 to the defending BCFC champion Okanagan Sun last Saturday in Kelowna.

Hitting the road again this weekend, the Rebels (2-1) travel to Kamloops to take on the 0-3 Broncos in a 7 p.m. start at Hillside Stadium.

While it’s a game the Rebels should have no problem winning, head coach J.C. Boice said it’s very important for the team to learn from the loss and continue to work hard this week.

“If there’s ever a trap game this is it,” he said. The combination of a playing a weaker team, having to be up early to catch the ferry on game day and harbouring lingering thoughts about a game they could have won has the potential to add up to a poor result, he noted.

Last Saturday, Okanagan jumped out to an early 17-0 lead when Raquille Cespedes returned a missed field goal the length of the field for a touchdown that gave the locals their largest lead of the game.

The Rebels, stymied offensively for most of the first half, broke free with a couple minutes left in the second quarter when running back Jamel Lyles rushed for a 22-yard touchdown. Having piled up a league-best 338 yards rushing the first two games this season, Lyles had been shut down until then.

Westshore continued to turn up the heat on the Sun in the third quarter. Rebels quarterback Ashton Mackinnon and receiver Kain Melchior combined on a 45-yard passing play that, when converted, pulled the Rebels to within six points at 20-14.

But that was as close as the visitors would get. Sun kicker Kealey Heintz gave his team a point on a missed 18-yard field goal, but nailed two fourth-quarter attempts to give him four on the day to make it 27-14. An apparent TD pass to Melchior was called back when the Rebels were called for being offside.

The Okanagan defence held the Rebels off the board until Mackinnon went over from the one-yard-line as the clock ticked off the final seconds of the fourth quarter. The score was set up by a 40-plus yard passing play to Lerenzo Ihanza.

Callum Duke, playing with a broken toe on his kicking foot, converted all three Rebels touchdowns.

Once again the Rebels defence was solid and gave the team a chance to win. Okanagan running back Brenden Hansen may have proven elusive – he racked up 120 yards rushing – but his first-quarter, 12-yard TD reception was the only one the Rebels D allowed the potent Sun offence to score on the day.

“Our defence played really, really well,” Boice said. “We gave Kelowna a short field a couple of times when our offence didn’t sustain drives, but (the defence) forced turnovers and pressured the quarterback.”

He said his team has some work to do on special teams, pointing to Cespedes’ TD return. Boice, a QB coaching specialist, said he plans to work this week with quarterbacks Mackinnon and Scott Borden on rhythm and timing.

And watching the Sun key on Westshore playmakers Lyles and fellow back Trey Campbell showed that the Rebels need to be more creative with getting the two speedsters the ball, Boice added, as well as the potentially explosive Ihanza, who returned from injury last weekend.

“I saw things that I liked (against Okanagan). If our QB play improves just a little bit and our receivers continue to mature, I have the utmost confidence in our guys.”

The Rebels play their third straight road game Aug. 20 in Chilliwack, then return home to Westhills Stadium on Aug. 27 to play those same Valley Huskers. After a Labour Day weekend break, the Rebels welcome the Sun into what Boice said will be “a hornet’s nest,” a Sept. 10 showdown in Langford.



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