In high school athletics, resilience might be right there at the top of the list of “must-have” traits.
So when Jake Etter hobbled onto the frozen turf in Haverhill last Thanksgiving morning, in uniform and contributing to Pentucket’s 28-0 victory over rival Triton, the folks in Sachem Country noticed.
Just 69 days earlier, Etter had suffered a broken tibia in Week 2 vs. Amesbury. But there was no denying him on Turkey Day.
“I was half healthy, maybe three quarters healthy, limping around out there,” said Etter, who threw a TD pass and caught two balls for 16 yards in the win. "It probably wasn’t the best idea, but I was out for so long, so I just did it.”
Resilience. It simply can’t be taught.
“Obviously it was a tough break. I thought that could be the year to put me over the top athletically,” said Etter, who went on to enjoy strong junior seasons for the Sachems in both basketball and baseball, helping each team win CAL Kinney Division titles. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe it’s a sign that this is my year. I’m glad the injury is not lingering, and I’m glad I’m back to full strength.”
All indications point to the fact that this could indeed be the year for Etter and the Sachems, who open their season tonight at Ipswich.
The senior wide receiver, free safety and punt returner has certainly set the bar high, not just for himself, but his team.
“We’re all pretty excited to get started,” said Etter, who currently ranks Endicott at the top of his potential college list. “We’re such a deep team with interchangeable parts, Peter Cleary, Andrew Melone, Andrew Joyce, Dylan O’Rourke … We’ve got a lot of good seniors. We’ve been looking forward to this. We’ve been playing together for years, and that’s what makes it so special.
“This means a lot to me. It’s why I grinded to come back from the broken leg. This is what I’ve waited for my whole life. Everyone dreams about your last year in high school sports. The goal is a state title.”
Etter understands what championship runs are all about. Six years ago he was with his big brother, Ryan, every step of the way when the elder Etter helped Central Catholic win a Division 1 championship.
“And I remember all of it,” he said.
There is some irony there. Ryan entered his senior year after suffering a near-catastrophic freak accident when his fingers were crushed between two large plates in a summer weight-training session.
Perhaps, that’s where Jake found his inspiration to rehab the leg. Finding energy was not difficult, either, again thanks to Ryan.
“Ryan is pushing me hard towards football. He got me to work so hard this summer, for this moment, this year,” said Jake. “A bunch of us would work with him throwing. He gave us everything.”
Many have asked the question, if Ryan went to Central, why didn’t Jake follow?
And the answer can be found in his teammates/classmates in all three sports, plus his coaches.
“I get asked about Central a lot, but the coaching the experiences I’ve had at Pentucket have really been special,” Jake said. “(Co-coaches Steve Hayden and Dan Leary), they’ve really helped me get through the tough times.”
And hopefully, the times will be spectacular for Etter in his final year with the Sachems.
“Going back to when I coached him in freshman basketball, Jake has been awesome for us,” said Leary of the football quad-captain. “His leadership comes from his play on the field. He's just such a competitor, always has been.”
A few quick thoughts
On playing three sports: “It opens up so much for me. The different sports help me in the other ones, they play off each other. I like playing all three so much. I couldn’t give one up.”
On his favorite: “Basketball is my No. 1, but after all the work I put in this summer, I am definitely thinking about football in college.”
On his injury last year: “It was Sept. 14, the Amesbury game. I was blocking somebody on the outside and the running back was gang-tackled right on top of my foot. That was it.”
On the memories of his big brother Ryan winning a state title with Central Catholic in 2013: “I remember all of it. The Everett game. Cody Demers' catch. Mike Milano’s big run. All of it.”