Prep football | Times Offensive Player of the Year

Merrillville's Raspopovich is the Times Offensive Player of the Year

2012-11-29T17:00:00Z 2013-12-06T02:27:07Z Merrillville's Raspopovich is the Times Offensive Player of the YearJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
November 29, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

It all started in the Raspopovich's driveway and back yard where Josh and Zach showed no mercy to little brother Jake.

"I remember a couple times, Zach and I played one on one, I'd go up for a layup and he'd throw me to the ground on the cement," Jake said. "I'd be bleeding. I said, 'Where's the foul?!' He said, 'There's no foul!' That's what happens when you have older brothers. You have to be tough. I always wanted to beat them, in everything we'd do. They kept winning, but I kept fighting, coming back for more."

Pound for pound, they didn't come any tougher than the 6-foot, 155-pound Merrillville quarterback. They also didn't come any better. After amassing 4,109 yards of offense, triggering an attack that broke the state record for yards in a season (6,560) and guiding the Pirates to the Class 5A semistate, Raspopovich has been named the Times Offensive Player of the Year.

"Jake's an incredible competitor," Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. "You see it in both basketball and football. He competes not only on game day, but he competes with himself and with our quarterbacks coach on a daily basis. He just doesn't want to lose at anything. He has an understanding of athletics, a great feel for the game, really no matter what the game is."

An intense player with a commanding presence as a player, Wells found that same demeanor in Raspopovich, who has long reveled in being the man, regardless of what shape the ball was.

"I like having the ball in my hands with the game on the line," he said. "I've always been like that since I was a little kid. Being a quarterback's like being a point guard. You've got to distribute the ball. You've got to have (good) vision. You've got to be the leader. Since I was young, coach Wells wanted me to be the leader of the team. That's what he'd tell me on the sidelines. He always had confidence in me. He gives it his all as coach. I listened to him and would do the best I could for him."

Being a quarterback on any team is demanding, but in Merrillville's fast-paced read-option attack, it required a decisive, authoritative conductor to make it all work, and Raspo was the Pirates' maestro.

"For us, that's the one guy who's the link between all positions," Wells said. "Each play had multiple options. It may be run-pass. It may be run-run, keep, hand off, keep-pitch, keep-throw. We implemented more stuff with Jake faster than we did with any other quarterback. We flooded him with stuff in the summer and he was able to absorb it so quickly. That ability allowed us to do a lot of things and do them well."

For Raspopovich, it was simply what came with being signal-caller.

"You can't play the positions I play and be tentative," he said. "If the coach gives me something to do, I feel it's my job to remember it, no matter what they throw at me. There's no choice. If I don't know it, I have to study it. If I don't, I'm letting the team down and making it not reach its potential."

Quick to dole out the credit to his teammates for his myriad of school records, Raspopovich left the field at Fort Wayne Wayne after the semistate loss knowing it was the last time he'd play organized football. He started basketball the following morning and didn't look back. Raspopovich's size doesn't fit the recruiting prototype, so when the big school offers didn't roll in, he took a scholarship to D-I Pan American for basketball back in the summer.

"I didn't want to take the chance on giving up a full ride by waiting," he said. "I like both (sports) a lot. I'm going to miss playing football at Merrillville alone. It's a great community, a great program with great coaches and great players. It's been a great experience, all four years. There's just a different feeling on the field than any other sport, especially quarterback. It takes a lot of heart to go out there. It gets me excited. It gets my blood flowing."

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