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Family and football prove to be a winning combination for Triton Central's Jace Stuckey

It might be hard to believe, but Jace Stuckey has not always loved the game of football.

HS Football Articles_Stuckey feature

It might be hard to believe, but Jace Stuckey has not always loved the game of football.

"When I started playing flag football in kindergarten, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I do now," recalled the Triton Central High standout. "I was just happy to be outside and running. The only time I'd really pay attention is if the coach said he was giving me the ball."

You can thank Jace's mom and dad for his change of heart.

"My parents had a direct influence because they signed me up to play football," Stuckey said. "When I was younger, I played everything, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, karate, dance. As I kept playing, I was influenced by many coaches who made me really enjoy the team aspect of the game. I was also really influenced by (Indianapolis) Colts fans. My parents have had season tickets prior to me being born, so I went to a lot games when I was younger. The idea that this many random people could come together and be so passionate for something was very interesting. It was something I wanted to be a part of."

A little bit of guidance along with a big nudge in the right direction has paid dividends for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior quarterback starting with his little league days all the way to the present with the Tigers.

"Growing up. I had many great coaches throughout little league," Stuckey recalled. "Coach Thacker, Coach Harris, and Coach Kermode were some of the earlier guys who really made me fall in love with the game.

"The culture at Triton Central is passionate. We have players and coaches who really want to be part of something special each year. The passion of these players mixed with the winning traditional Coach (Tim) Able has built here combines for a great culture.

"I have been a part of three very different teams prior to this season. All of those seasons ended with a winning season and sectional title. This just speaks to the Triton Central culture."

After seeing limited action as a freshman, Stuckey completed 261-of-441 passes for 4,043 yards with 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over the last two years as a regular at the controls. He also carried the ball 133 times for 359 yards with 17 scores.

"I think I have developed a lot as a player from year to year," explained Stuckey. "I look back at last year's film and even my sophomore year's film and I look at how much my decision-making, processing of the game, and general understanding has grown. I would say some of my major strengths are the ability to throw accurately off platform and off schedule. This also goes with my ability to extend plays.

"Overall, one of my biggest strengths is my ability to prepare for games, understand defenses, and the 'X and O's' of the game. I credit (quarterback coach) Anthony Morelli for developing me physically as a quarterback, but I also give him even more credit for developing me pre-snap and in the film room."

Stuckey's contributions not only helped Triton Central to back-to-back Class 2A sectional crowns but also earned him all-state accolades from the Indiana Football Coaches Association as well as a spot on the 2023 Indiana Football Digest's Prime Time 25 squad.

"It was a great feeling," Stuckey said of being named to the Prime Time 25. "There were countless nights where my parents and I would discuss my situation. So many people in my ear were telling me that it wasn't likely I was going to get scholarships or attention as a small school quarterback and many other people were telling me that it's just as possible at a small school.

"The situation began to bring stress and confusion to my life. I knew I wanted to play football and play as long as I could. The situation continued, but with the guidance of my parents and my quarterback's coach (Anthony Morelli), I worked hard and stayed true to what I believed."

It also started getting him recognition from college programs around the United States.

"After my junior season I was receiving a lot of attention, then the scholarship offers started coming in towards the end of basketball season," Stuckey recalled. "This was such a great and relieving feeling. My family would celebrate with me each time I would get off the phone or leave the head coach's office with a scholarship. I couldn't help but think of the people who had doubted me and written me off because of my school. I also would always think of the people who had been by my side the whole time.

"When my family and I went to the Griddy's awards (program), it was an honor. No one from Triton Central had ever been on the cover (of the IFD), so again it felt like a breakthrough for me and the future of Triton Central. When I saw myself on the cover of the book at the North-South all-star game (in July), I felt appreciative because I know I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without the people that have been by my side and supported me from the beginning."

One of those individuals in his corner from the beginning has been Tigers' head coach Tim Able.

"Every coach dreams of having players who are coaches on the field and Jace is that guy on the field for us," Able explained. "He studies the game with the eyes of a coach. He is all about football year-round and is a team player that just does what is best for our team and program.

"Over the last two summers, he visited numerous schools and only missed one practice, which is amazing if you knew how many schools he went to. He has always put our program first. At East Noble, I had a state championship quarterback in David Gater, who was an amazing athlete, and Conner Simmons, who is now the head coach of Cascade, when I was at New Palestine. But at this level of play, Jace is the best I have ever coached because of his ability to pass the ball accurately and on time and still be a dual threat to run with elusive speed. He is the only (NCAA) division one quarterback I have ever coached."

Over his first three games so far this season, Stuckey is 56-of-87 for 851 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception. He has also run 29 times for 108 yards with a score.

"I believe I need to continue to work with our receivers," Stuckey said. "We have eight good receivers who can start for us each and every Friday. I need to know the comforts and discomforts along with the strengths and weaknesses of each of the receivers. As we continue our improvements with timing and understanding, it will only benefit the team and my performance.

"I think one of my bigger weaknesses is my weight. I'm about 185 to 190 pounds, so I would love to be able to add more mass and muscle to my frame as I continue onto the next level."

After weighing all of his options, he decided to make Eastern Michigan University his new home starting in 2024.

"I loved everything about them," Stuckey said. "Coach (Chris) Creighton has built a great culture there, so it's definitely something I want to be a part of. They are one of the first FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) programs to believe in me enough to offer me a scholarship. That meant a lot to me. We had visited them twice prior to my commitment. The first visit was just me and my dad and we loved everything Coach Creighton had to say about his vision of the program. We also enjoyed getting on the board with Coach Pike (Mike Piatkowski).

"Coach Creighton and Coach Pike's personalities are almost polar opposites, so this was something that I really liked. The idea of being coached by two different personalities is something I was really interested in. After that visit and seeing their recent success, I knew I really liked them. I kept in close contact with Coach Pike through the basketball season and eventually, I went back to Ypsilanti to watch a practice. This is when Coach Creighton had my family and I in his office and offered me a scholarship. I knew that moment in the office that I was very interested. A couple weeks later, Coach Crieghton randomly called me during the evening. We talked on the phone for multiple hours. After that call, I knew I wanted to be a part of Coach Creighton's plan.

"Before I could commit, though, I knew I needed to follow through with all my prior planned throwing sessions at Triton Central, including one with Eastern Michigan and Coach Pike. Then on May 4, I called Coach Creighton and Coach Pike and committed to Eastern Michigan. That was a great feeling and I've been back to Eastern (Michigan) since then. Every time I go, I realize how happy I am that I made that decision. My goal is to get to Eastern (Michigan) in January to begin working and ultimately bring a MAC (Mid-America Conference) championship to Ypsilanti"

Before beginning the next chapter in his life, though, Stuckey wants to erase the memory of a 43-13 loss to top-ranked and two-time defending Class 1A state champion Indianapolis Lutheran on September 1.

That happens on September 8 when No. 4 (Class 2A) Triton Central (2-1) welcomes Monrovia (3-0) to Mendenhall Field.

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