MERRILLVILLE | On a night where the television cameras showed live the greatness of Warren Central's football program, there were two other plays that were just as spectacular.
Unbelievable athleticism and a top-shelf grid IQ was displayed as the fans at Demaree Stadium cheered.
And both plays were incomplete passes.
Merrillville junior quarterback Jake Raspopovich, making his first varsity start behind center, was being chased by about 12 Division I Warriors. He made quick, decisive footwork. He saw every Pirates receiver covered like a blanket. So he threw the ball into the ground.
"You can't teach that," former Merrillville QB coach Zach Sliwa said while watching from the sidelines.
As most already know, this is not Merrillville's first "Raspo." This is the third.
Josh "the Elder" took the Pirates to the 2005 Class 5A semistate. Zach "the Toughest" took Merrillville to the 2009 semistate final.
Despite the 64-13 loss to the top-ranked team in Indiana and the No. 3 team in America according to Rivals.com, Jake Raspopovich could very easily be the best of them all.
Bill Raspopovich is the father of Merrillville quarterbacks. His sons' names are all over the record books. The youngest learned to be good in an age-old region way -- being knocked into a fence and the house while playing hoops as a youngster.
"Josh and Zach were never easy on Jake," Bill said. "They pushed him to be the best. They made him tough and they did quite a bit of talking out on our driveway."
Last year, after a game, Zach hurt his wrist. So the family was getting ready to take him to the hospital. Jake, then a sophomore receiver, got a little payback for the driveway chatter.
He said, "That's OK. Move over. It's my time to shine."
While Bill told the story, his youngest threw a completion that was ripped out of the Pirates' hands and a Warrior took off down the sideline. Raspopovich took off, dove and knocked the Warrior down on the half-yard line.
In the game, the latest Raspopovich went 15-of-26 for 133 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
"His stat line could've been much better if they didn't have D-I dbs all over the place," Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. "As important as anything he threw the ball away at the right times. He kept us away from negative yardage."
Make no mistake. Warren Central is a freak show. Unbelievable.
Make no mistake. Merrillville is very good. Will get better. Will be a team that can make a run in the north.
Just like all those other teams led by a "Raspo."
"Their defense was stacked," Jake said. "But I think we did a pretty good job moving the ball, moving people. We have things to work on and things to fix. I felt like I could've played better."
Raspopovich gave credit to his offensive line, which did fantastic against Warren's front.
"We're going to see a lot of their kids on TV," Raspopovich said.
He credited his running backs, who will get better. He credited his receivers, who have to get better and hang on to the ball. And he knows this is a long season and there is a lot of time between now and then, when everything really matters.
"This was a good experience," Raspopovich said. "It will only make us better."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.