Whitman Tomusiak finished one touchdown short of history on Saturday, but it was still a grand finale for the Vancouver Island Raiders' star receiver.
Tomusiak entered the final B.C. Football Conference regular season game of the year at Caledonia Park needing three receiving touchdowns to tie the all-time Canadian Junior Football League record. He finished with two, but also returned a punt for a touchdown, leading the Raiders to a 71-0 thumping of the cellar-dwelling Westshore Rebels.
Most importantly for the Raiders is the win clinched the No. 1 seed through the BCFC playoffs and hosting duties. They have come a long way since starting the season 1-2, winning seven straight games and proving many more critics wrong.
"When you have this many guys that all of a sudden have that true belief and want to start playing for that jersey, it's amazing what they can accomplish," said Raiders head coach Matt "Snoop" Blokker.
The game never was in doubt, but as it wore on, the focus shifted to getting the fourth-year Raider the record, and he did have his opportunities.
He dropped one in the end zone in the second quarter and then had one called back on a penalty in the fourth quarter.
Instead, he finishes his BCFC career with 30 receiving majors, one behind Mark McDonald, who had 31 for the Vancouver Meralomas from 1968-71.
"Everyone on the sideline was saying it, I was just like 'Leave me a lone, I don't want to talk about it, I just play your game,'" he said. "If it happened it happened, it should have happened down there, but it didn't. But it isn't a big deal."
It was a mark his teammates were well aware of.
Quarterback Jahmari Bennett, who played most of the second half, did his best to get the ball to Tomusiak in scoring opportunities, but even Tomusiak was cautioning him not to force anything to him.
"He just wanted me to stay calm and make my reads, and if he comes open then, yeah, hit him," said Bennett. "But there wasn't much pressure and Whitman did a good job with not making it hard on us."
The game was an important one for all three active quarterbacks. With No. 1 Jamie Ybarra out for the next month with a broken collarbone, the job now falls to Jaeden Marwick, who has been used sparingly, and Bennett, who missed six weeks with a thumb injury.
Both passed their first big test with flying colours.
Marwick, 18, finished 8-of-13 for 151 yards, three touchdowns and one interceptions, while running three times for 27 yards and a touchdown.
It has been a long road for the Saskatchewanite, who has been fighting for time on the field all season in practice. Most of his playing time has come in mop-up situations, but he showed on Saturday he can be trusted early on in games as well.
"It's been hard to adjust, but we dealt with it, we practiced every week and it's just the confidence in my team and players that keeps me going," said Marwick. "I know they have confidence in me and I have confidence in them and we know that we can succeed, it doesn't matter who we have at quarterback."
For Bennett, 22, it has been a frustrating first season in Nanaimo. He finished spring camp as the top quarterback, but was hampered by a thumb injury that eventually forced him to the sidelines after the second week.
It would have been easy for Bennett to walk away from football and go back home to Ontario, but he didn't quit. He has been biding his time on the sidelines, waiting to heal and an opportunity to get back on the field.
"It's definitely been real tough, but I always try to persevere over everything and try to bounce
back as positive as possible," said Bennett.
"It was pretty tough, but I definitely made the right decision in coming back and sticking it out with the team."
He finished the game 5-of-8 for 67 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 12 yards.
Even the Raiders fourth string quarterback Jamie Lutz made his season debut, and looked comfortable enough in the pocket, going 1-of-2 for 39 yards and one touchdown in just two series.
"We believe in all of the guys," said Blokker. "There's no doubt in our minds that whoever goes in is going to do the job, and that's how we think."
Lost in the offensive fireworks was another strong defensive game as the Raiders posted their shutout of the season, and had six interceptions by six different players - Nigel Henry, Arthur Fabbro, Andrew Rowe, Fabian Ross, Jaxxon Wylie and Daniel Dubinski.
"I think they've been outstanding the last three weeks," said Blokker. "They've played unreal football and they're playing together as a group."
But they can expect a more difficult test on Saturday when they host the BCFC semifinal against the Kamloops Broncos, who nearly upset them on Aug. 24, before V.I. pulled out a 37-27 win.
GRIDIRON NOTES - Ashton Galloway led the Raiders with 80 yards and two touchdowns on five rushes. .. Tomusiak finished with 97 yards on five carries and two touchdowns and one 44-yard punt return touchdown. .. Dustin Rodriguez also returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. .. Mike Richott added one rushing major, while Alex Thompson and Owen Reddlick had one recieving touchdown each. .. Westshore quarterback Hunter Lake finished 5-for-23 for 124 yards and six interceptions.
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