That time has arrived for the 18-year-old receiver.
“I remember when I was young, going to Sun games, really liking the team and thinking how much I’d like to play for them one day,” said Zakala, who played for Sun head coach Ben Macauley at KSS. “It was a dream, I guess you could say.
“Right now, I’m really enjoying it,” added Zakala. “The players are all super good and nice to be around. I’m looking forward to playing and definitely want to do my part.”
I want to thank all the coaches who have spent there time and energy into recruiting me, I will always be grateful and humbled by the amount of recognition I’ve gotten for my hard work! But to start my post secondary football career I will be playing for the Okanagan Sun! pic.twitter.com/1UvbIuBoEn
— Kyle Zakala (@zakala_kyle) March 22, 2018
One of more than 40 newcomers at Sun training camp, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Zakala had an opportunity to take his skills to the U Sports level this season—both Calgary and UBC were options—but chose not to rush into a decision on his education. Remaining in his hometown and playing for his former high school coach was more than enough to convince Zakala to pull on a Sun jersey in 2018.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent sure what I wanted to take (in university), I didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something I wasn’t sure about,” said Zakala, whose older brother, Josh, is a national-calibre swimmer with the University of Victoria Vikes. “The Sun is a great option until I figure it out…Ben is a great guy and a great coach, so it wasn’t a tough decision for me.”
Zakala is among a formidable crop of rookies and newcomers expected to play key roles with the club in 2018.
Adding extra local flavour to the Sun’s receiving corps are Blaise Beauchemin—a teammate of Zakala’s at KSS—and Dayton Moore, a Mt. Boucherie Bears’ grad who spent one season with the McGill University Redmen in Montreal.
Macauley sees plenty of promise in all three athletes and expects them to fit in nicely with the Sun program.
“Kyle and Blaise, I coached both of them in high school so it’s nice to have that relationship and history,” said Macauley, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Sun. “With all three of those guys, it just makes it logistically easier for the program. They can live at home and just come in here with a certain comfort level and hit the ground running.”
Macauley sees Zakala—who snared nine passes for 175 yards and scored three touchdowns with the Owls last season—as an impact player in his first season of junior football.
“Kyle is a guy we’re going to have a tough time taking off the field,” Macauley said. “He’s a big target, tough to defend against if you put the ball up high for him. Smaller linebackers are going to find him to be a handful. We feel he’s going to contribute right away.”
Beauchemin was a valuable jack-of-all-trades at KSS, playing at running back, receiver, quarterback, linebacker and defensive back. Last season, Beauchemin led the Owls with 461 yards rushing and five touchdowns, while hauling in 17 passes for 132 yards.
“He’s an exceptional athlete,” Macauley said of Beauchemin. “He’s really bright, a smart young man. This is a chance for him to get a couple of years of physical development in before he heads off to university without losing any eligibility.
“He’s performed well in training camp, he’s made some great catches and is well-built physically for this level of football.”
Moore played the 2016 season at McGill, then took last year off to focus on school. He returned to Kelowna this summer with no specific plans for football—until some friends offered up a suggestion.
“We were just hanging out when one of the guys said, ‘Why don’t you play with the Sun?” Moore said. “So I got in touch with Ben and it all just happened from there.
“It feels right, I feel good about it, I think my experience in the CIS (U Sports) helped me get on track,” added Moore, 20. “The talent here is really good, it looks like a CIS-level team with a winning mentality. We have a good coach, Ben has a good philosophy. Coming back to the Okanagan is nice, it’ll be nice to play football in front of family and friends.”
At just 5-foot-8, 156 pounds, Moore is undersized by junior football standards.
Still, what he lacks in physcial stature, Macauley believes Moore compensates for in talent, smarts and heart.
“He’s an undersized guy, but he’s a playmaker,” Macauley said. “He plays above his height, he understands the game well and is very coachable. He’s a big team guy and doesn’t care how he fits in.”
“I’ve always been undersized but that just adds fuel to my fire,” Moore said. “I play with a chip on my shoulder and I’m used to trying to prove people wrong. I have high expectations and I want to play.”
Training camp continues this week for the Sun at the Apple Bowl/Parkinson fields.
Moore, Zakala, Beauchemin and the rest of the club will to take to the field on Saturday for a team scrimmage at 4 p.m.
The Sun will kick off the BCFC regular season Aug. 5 in Kamloops.
Back to back GOLD! Huge congrats to our guy @TylerGoing25 and @FootballCanada on their Gold Medal at the @MEXICO2018_U19 Word Junior Championship#sunfamily #sunpride #sunwin pic.twitter.com/LrbDYhkJ8f
— Okanagan Sun (@okanagan_sun) July 23, 2018
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