YEAR OF THE QB: Cheshire’s Jack Raba is college-bound in lacrosse; first, he’s got a football career to finish

YEAR OF THE QB: Cheshire’s Jack Raba is college-bound in lacrosse; first, he’s got a football career to finish


Editor’s Note: All six varsity football teams in the Record-Journal coverage area are returning their quarterbacks, making 2017 our Year of the QB. The R-J is profiling all six. Cheshire’s Jack Raba takes his under center today.

CHESHIRE — You’ve read about Jack Raba. He’s the Cheshire senior who will be signing a National Letter of Intent with Loyola of Maryland.

In lacrosse.

Each quarterback you’ll meet in this Year of the QB series has something unique that separates him from the others. Raba, at this juncture, is the only one going on to college to play a sport other than football.

He’s also the longest tenured area QB. Appointed varsity starter as a sophomore, Raba is going into his third year at the helm of Cheshire’s spread attack.

Head coach Don Drust said going with Raba in the fall of 2015 was not a difficult decision to make.

“He’s got a unique set of not just physical attributes, but the mental part of it: He’s pretty spot-on,” Drust said.

“He’s got intangibles; he’s got things you don’t teach. He’s got an infectious personality in a positive way. He walks into a room and genuinely cares about his teammates, genuinely cares about what he’s doing. He’s got that smile on his face, a little bit of confidence without cockiness.”

The key development three seasons ago? Cheshire seniors bought into their sophomore quarterback.

Part of it was the 50-yard bomb Raba tossed to fellow sophomore Eric Angelone in the waning seconds to beat Hamden in the opening game. Hard to top that for a debut.

Most of it, however, had to do with the way Raba comported himself. He was straightforward and communicated well with teammates, Drust said, establishing a reputation that endures.

And, after suffering a season-ending ACL tear later in that sophomore campaign and undergoing surgery, Raba returned to the sidelines, something also not lost on his teammates.

“They saw a guy who, regardless of what may be going on around him or behind the scenes or they may not know, it’s the same consistency,” Drust said. “That’s what Jack is. He’s consistent in a positive way.”

Raba and the Rams are hoping for two particular positives this year: a successful season and a healthy season. Cheshire hasn’t been to the playoffs since winning the Class LL championship in 2009. Raba, after suffering the ACL tear in 2015, missed time again in 2016 with another, though far less serious, knee injury: a partial meniscus tear that did not require surgery.

Over his first two years, Raba has played in 18 games. He has thrown for 2,949 yards and 11 TDs and is well within range of Billy Ragone’s program records of 3,333 yards and 31 passing TDs.

This will be Raba’s last year quarterbacking in organized football. He’s been playing the position since moving to Cheshire from Wallingford in fourth grade.

Even after giving Loyola lacrosse an initial commitment as an underclassman, Raba knew he’d see his football career out in Cheshire red and white.

“The coaching staff down there was great. They actually like to recruit a lot of two-sport athletes,” Raba said of head coach Charley Toomey and the Loyola lacrosse staff. “That was one thing that definitely made an impact in my recruitment is that they like to go out and find those kids.”

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds heading into his senior year, Raba is plenty comfortable in the pocket. He has gotten very adept at reading defenses. On pass plays, he scans the safeties and cornerbacks. Two high safety? One high? How far are the corners off the receivers? How are they lined up against the receivers?

“The more experience you have, the easier it gets, for sure,” Raba said. “Having great teammates and coaches to help you through that process definitely helps, too. I have to credit them for that.”

Drust noted that Raba has the board quarterbacking concepts so down pat that finer points can now be pursued.

“His football IQ is as good as it gets. He understands the game, he understands coverages, he understands why things are the way they are,” Drust said. “Now we can really start throwing some things at him. We can really start fine-tuning: Look at the angle of a defensive back to tell where he’s going to go; look at a guy’s eyes to see where he’s going to drop; what kind of stance are the D-linemen in?”

Last year, in completing 150 of 250 passes for 1,721 yards, Raba spread the wealth around to his four wide-outs. The leading receiver for a second straight year, Mike Millea, has taken his game on to Wagner College. The other three — Angelone, Michael Jeffrey and Tom Wnuk — are back.

“It’s tough losing Mike,” said Raba. “I still think we’ll still have a deep receiving corps this year. Even just outside the starting four guys will be, there are a lot of guys on this team who can catch the football.

“It definitely makes my job easier. All I’ve got to do is get them the ball and let them make plays.”

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