In a reverse of the club’s typical 2016 game script, the Westshore Rebels jumped all over the Okanagan Sun early but faded in the game’s latter stages in a low-scoring 19-15 loss in Kelowna.
The defending Cullen Cup champions – who made a habit of dominating the second half of games in 2016 – were powered by a pair of long passing plays from quarterback Scott Borden in the early going, eventually taking a 14-0 lead over the Sun by the time the second quarter was a minute old.
Okanagan fought back with a pair of touchdowns of their own by the half, both coming on the ground.
Both offences stagnated in the final 30 minutes, with the winning points coming on a Sun safety in the third quarter. They added an insurance field goal in the fourth.
The Rebels turned the ball over seven times in the loss, four times on downs.
“There’s some things that need to be dealt with and cleaned up,” said head coach Charley Cardilicchia.
The rookie head coach, who also serves as the team’s offensive co-ordinator, admitted that there’s a learning curve to his new role. He lamented the fact that he didn’t continue with the team’s high-tempo, aggressive attack throughout the game.
Borden completed 21 passes on 41 attempts for 281 yards, adding two passing touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
The second-year Rebel also carried the ball four times for 23 yards to lead the Rebels on the ground as the club struggled to get its rushing attack going. Trey Campbell managed just eight yards on five carries before exiting with a dislocated finger. Cardilicchia called him week-to-week but said there’s a chance he’ll be ready for Week 2.
D’Saun Greenaway impressed in his Rebels debut with seven grabs for a team-high 114 yards and a score. “He’s what you call a freak,” Cardilicchia said of the 6’5” wideout. “He’s going to be a big piece of our puzzle.”
Austin Lindo-Brow had the Rebels’ other major, finishing with two catches for 64 yards.
Defensively, the Rebels limited the Sun to just 11 first downs and 234 net yards while forcing three turnovers. “They did exactly what they had to do,” Cardilicchia noted.
As was often the case in 2016, the Rebels were heavily penalized, committing 16 infractions totalling 133 yards compared to the Sun’s nine for 70.
Westshore has two more road contests before their home opener on Aug. 19 at Westhills Stadium.
They’ll travel over the Malahat to visit the Vancouver Island Raiders (1-0) on Aug. 5 before another trip to the B.C. Interior on Aug. 12 for a date with the Kamloops Broncos (1-0).
Cardilicchia is expecting a physical game in Nanaimo.
“When it’s Victoria and Nanaimo there’s always a bit of an edge,” he said.