If an athlete doesn't have confidence, he doesn't have much.
Vancouver Island Raiders receiver Whitman Tomusiak rediscovered his swagger on Saturday with a career game against the Langley Rams, despite still not being completely healthy.
The Raiders did not win the game, losing 36-28, but they showed the B.C. Football Conference, and more importantly themselves, that they are still a team to be taken seriously, that they can play with anybody.
Tomusiak was a major part of that, as he lead a banged up receiving core with 11 receptions for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Few players needed this kind of performance more.
After a huge off-season where he earned rave reviews from the B.C. Lions and being signed to their practice roster, he sprained his ankle badly in a flag football game, was unable to play during training camp and has only been able to practice sporadically since.
Big questions started to crop up about everything from his toughness to his future with the Lions, as his ability to practice with them has been limited as well.
One person who wasn't questioning Tomusiak was himself. "It definitely lets me know I can do that sort of thing, but I never really doubted it either," he said. "I just want to keep going and we have to focus on winning out."
Tomusiak's performance went beyond numbers, he was clutch. He was the main read for rookie quarterbacks Jamie Ybarra and Jaeden Marwick when they needed a big play, and he almost always came through.
No play was bigger than his 75-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that brought the Raiders back into the game. Fiveyards off the line he was pulling up his pants before they slipped down, in the process of running by the Langley receiver, he then outran everyone to the end zone.
Raiders head coach Matt "Snoop" Blokker was thrilled to see the old Tomusiak back.
"Superman was able to do the things Superman was used to doing," said Blokker.
"Sometimes when that happens, and you can't help your team out the way you can when you're 100 per cent, it works in a negative fashion."
Those questions about his toughness, they were coming from Blokker. But he understood the struggles. He just needed someone to snap him out of it, and that came from fellow banged up receivers Dustin Rodriguez and Dylan Schrot who worked through their injuries.
His frustration hit its highpoint when Tomusiak sat out their 17-3 loss to the Okanagan Sun.
"I think Dustin Rodriguez and Dylan Schrot set an example for him about how important it is to be a Raider. I think he saw that in Kelowna and that made a big difference in the reason why he was on the field against Langley," said Blokker.
"Leadership comes in all different ways. Now that he has had an opportunity to perform that way, his confidence is huge and the belief of the team in Whitman Tomusiak is huge." Whitman led the Canadian Junior Football League in receiving last year with 919 yards on 37 catches with eight touchdowns. He entered Saturdays' game against the Rams with zeros in all three categories, but now has already worked his way up to fourth in the BCFC in receiving yards, 98 behind Langley's Malcolm Williams. He did that while being just "70 per cent" and doesn't expect to be any closer to 100 per cent until after the bye week.
"We can pretty much consider it 100 per cent for games, because I can tape it up and it's not making me any slower right now, the problem is just practice. There's no way I can practice five times a week," he said."
However, help is on its way as the Raiders start to get healthier. Rodriguez is likely back in the lineup this weekend against the Valley Huskers, as is fullback Anthony Galloway.
As well, each week the young receivers like Schrot, Alex Kutra, Alex Thompson and Paul Childs get better.
It may not get to the point where it was last year, where V.I. suited up five of the best receivers in the country, but it will take the pressure off of Tomusiak.
The developing weapons have Ybarra excited. It certainly makes his job easier when he has more options at his disposal.
"With how our offence is set up and how our plays are run, it leaves many options for everyone all over the place," said Ybarra, who is in a heated battle with Marwick for playing time. "All of our receivers are all athletes and with our offence they all have a chance to make plays."
This Saturday should be a great opportunity for the Raiders to really find out what their offence is capable of when they host the Huskers at 4 p.m. Valley has traditionally been one of the weakest clubs in the BCFC, especially the last couple of years. But they find themselves sitting second in the league behind the Rams after three weeks with an undefeated 2-0-1 record. However, one of those wins is by way of an overturned 66-3 loss to the Sun, due to an ineligible Okanagan player. The other was a 33-30 win over the 0-2-1 Kamloops Broncos.
However, the Raiders, who have lost two games in a row for the first time since 2007, are not looking at any records heading into this one.
"At the end of the day it comes down to us needing to get a win," said Blokker. "I'm sick of losing, we lost two in a row and it's a (expletive) feeling. Right now, we just need to get a win and feel that. Winning is what brings confidence to a team. Winning allows you to start to produce a swagger. Winning allows you to go to work every day with a smile on your face knowing your team is in the right direction."
Josh Aldrich, Daily News / The Vancouver Island Raiders wide receiver Whitman Tomusiak, 12, celebrates a touchdown with Paul Childs against the Langley Rams in BCFC action in Nanaimo on Saturday.;
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