When the Saskatoon Hilltops hosted the Okanagan Sun in back in November, the tilt was significant as the national junior football championship was up for grabs. The Hilltops would claim the spoils at the 2015 Canadian Bowl with a 38-24 win in Saskatoon.
Fast forward to September 17 and the Hilltops made their first ever appearance at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna. Dubbed a "rematch" by fans and prognosticators, the significance this time around was the inter-conference nature of the game, one that would count toward the regular season standings for both teams.
The host Sun had compiled a 6-1 record in BCFC play, with it's only loss coming at the hands of the Westshore Rebels. The Hilltops entered the affair at 4-1, after dropping a home game to the PFC leading Calgary Colts that saw the 'Toppers enter the fray with 10 starters injured.
In Kelowna, Saskatoon scored early and often, jumping out to a 21-0 lead just six minutes into the game. Quarterback Jared Andreychuk, who guided the Hilltops in the title game in November, used his very educated arm to spread out the Sun defence. Running backs Logan Fischer and Josh Ewanchyna took turns exploding through gaping holes opened up by the offensive line.
The Sun debuted wide receiver Rashaun Simonise, a CIS football all-star last season who auditioned this summer for the NFL's Cincinniati Bengals. At 6'5 and 200 pounds, Simonise is obviously athletic, but Sun quarterbacks had difficulty getting the ball into his hands due to the constant pressure from the Hilltops pass rush.
The Sun offense was shut on the night, and that was not the only power outage on display at the Apple Bowl. A lighting malfunction late in the first half saw the teams sent to their dressing rooms. When they emerged, the teams played the final 1:04 of the first half, which saw the 'Toppers tally a touchdown that would stretch their already commanding lead to 40-2.
Sun head coach Ben Macauley came clean after the game with Wayne Moore of Castanet News in Kelowna.
"We got solidly beat in every phase of the game. We handed them 21 points before a few moments had gone by," Macauley opined. "I think at that point our guys were a little shell shocked and had a tough time recovering. We saw what a team that can execute in all phases of the game looks like, and we couldn't rise to the challenge."
If the drubbing was not enough for the Sun, quarterback Foster Martens left the game in the first quarter with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. He did not return.
The Sun has little time to lick their wounds, as they will face its BCFC arch-rival Vancouver Island Raiders in Nanaimo next weekend. The Hilltops have a bye in PFC action this coming weekend and will begin preparations for an Oct. 1 road game against its provincial rival, the Regina Thunder.