Quarterback Reid Vankoughnett is not exactly sure why his Kamloops Broncos’ teammates call him Sunshine.
Defensive back Keagan Curtis said the nickname derives from Vankoughnett’s likeness (especially the flowing blonde locks) to Ronnie (Sunshine) Bass, who was portrayed by actor Kip Pardue in famous football flick Remember The Titans.
Special teams co-ordinator Evan Mutrie said the moniker was bestowed on Vankoughnett as a tribute to his cheery demeanour.
“I don’t know,” Vankoughnett said when asked to explain the name. “I couldn’t tell you. Probably the hair and maybe the movie. They just started calling me it. I’ll go with it. I fit the description.”
There might be a haze of fogginess surrounding the origin story, but it is clear Sunshine is partly responsible for dragging the Broncos out of an extended period of darkness — and receiver Colton Meikle was on Saturday a blistering ray of light.
Meikle, a Grade 12 student at Westsyde secondary, racked up 222 yards receiving and three touchdown catches in a 47-17 win over the expansion Prince George Kodiaks at Hillside Stadium.
“We brought it and it feels great,” said Meikle, whose Broncos are 3-4 and sit fifth in B.C. Football Conference standings. “My whole family is out tonight. We had a great crowd.”
Kamloops prevailed in its final game of the 2021 campaign, an 18-7 triumph over the Westshore Rebels that marked the club’s first victory since Oct. 7, 2017, a win that snapped a 27-game losing streak.
Fans can finally expect to see a team — the Broncos have tallied at least 27 points in four of seven games this year — capable of producing significant offence and competing with top-tier opponents (see 32-27 loss to second-place Westshore).
Kamloops product Evan Guizzo set the tone on the opening kickoff on Saturday, using his motor to chase down the Prince George returner before making a crowd-pleasing tackle.
The Kodiaks’ offence sputtered and left the Broncos with good field position for their first drive, which ended when Meikle snared a short pass from Vankoughnett and took it to the house.
“Colton Meikle — what a stud,” said Sunshine’s older brother, Broncos’ head coach Braden Vankoughnett.
Prince George, which never rolled over in the contest and has shown well in its first year in the league, replied with a touchdown and an extra point to make the score 7-7 with 6:54 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged field goals before Kamloops — bolstered on a knifing drive by big plays from Guizzo and Meikle — took the lead on a Vankoughnett QB keeper.
Sunshine tallied another rushing touchdown late in the second quarter, this time tucking and running on a called passing play before following blocks to the end zone.
Kamloops carried a 25-10 lead into halftime, thanks in part to a timely interception by Nolan Marsden-Beck, whose pick with 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter stopped a Prince George drive on the Broncos’ 2-yard line.
Marsden-Beck was not the most notable performer in the Broncos’ defensive backfield.
That honour goes to Curtis, the flourishing rookie who recorded three interceptions to boost his team-leading total to seven after seven games.
“He’s a true ballhawk,” Vankoughnett said. “He’s a true freshman, 17 years old out of Regina.”
Spectator experience and the game's momentum were hindered by indiscipline and, at times, seemingly trigger-happy officials, with 21 penalties called in the first half alone, a flagfest that did not relent in the second half.
Idyllic pink-and-blue-hued skies accompanied a windless evening at Hillside Stadium. Black night creeped in and stole mountainous views in the third quarter.
But Sunshine was not done — and neither was the game’s shiny star.
Meikle hauled in a Vankoughnett bomb to give the Broncos a healthy cushion early in the third quarter and the standout receiver scored again in the fourth quarter, his third touchdown reception of the game coming on a pass from backup QB Clark Snider.
The boars up front bored room for Sunshine.
“All the hoggies have major chemistry,” said Alexander Schofield, a second-year offensive lineman from Prince Albert who stands six feet tall and weighs about 330 pounds.
“Last year, we had a big rift and that really hurt us. This year, it’s completely different. A thousand times better, man. We all show love constantly. We all love each other.
“The hoggies are loving it. I love these hoggies. Our O-line is amazing.”
In the dying seconds of the fourth quarter, with the game clearly in hand, the Broncos rolled out their special-teams unit to attempt a field goal that would give them 50 points on the night.
The Kodiaks earned a degree of solace in defeat, blocking the kick to take something positive into the rematch next weekend in Prince George.
Four teams will qualify for the BCFC post-season.
The fifth-place Broncos are chasing the fourth-place Langley Rams, who improved to 4-4 with a 19-14 victory over the Vancouver Island Raiders on Saturday in Nanaimo.
“We want to make playoffs and move on from there,” Curtis said. “Cullen Cup. That’s what I hope.”
Those are high hopes, considering two of the Broncos’ three victories have come against the expansion Kodiaks and the other win was a triumph over the last-place Raiders, who are 1-7 on the season.
But now is not the time for casting shade on a much-improved Kamloops team that eclipsed Prince George.
Sunnier days are here.
MORE ON MEIKLE
The Kamloopsian wideout Meikle leads the BCFC in receiving yards heading into Week 9 action, his 639 yards leaving him with a sizeable cushion atop the category.
Kieran Poissant of the Westshore Rebels is second, with 480 yards receiving.
Meikle in 2021 received a special exemption to play in the league at 16 years old, as his Westsyde Blue Wave were unable to field a senior high school football team.
Poissant leads the league in touchdowns, with seven. Meikle, who has five touchdown catches, is in a three-way tie for third in the category.
Meikle, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds, turns 18 in 2023.
Okanagan Sun 7-0
Westshore Rebels 5-2
Valley Huskers 5-3
Langley Rams 4-4
Kamloops Broncos 3-4
Prince George Kodiaks 1-6
Vancouver Island Raiders 1-7