The strong bond developed between Indianapolis Lutheran's Montasi Clay and Jake Pasch goes way beyond the football field.
"Montasi is my brother," explained the 6-foot, 185-pound senior wide receiver Pasch. "It has been special being around him not only as a friend and as teammates for more than half my life, but it has created an uncommon connection. Not only is it Tez and I, it's especially our senior teammates as well as the entire team shares this same relationship with one another."
Having been associated with Pasch since the second grade, the 6-foot, 190-pound senior signal caller Clay believes they know each other's tendencies pretty well.
Playing with Jake is like playing with a blood brother," explained Clay. "We both just have that itch for winning, and I know he will always have my back through the good times and the bad times. I know that the Pasch family will always be considered family to me and that is a true blessing. They are great people, and they will always have a spot in my heart."
Pasch and Clay have been proven to be quite the one-two punch in the Class 1A top-ranked Saints' quest to erase the painful memories of the end of the last two campaigns.
After enduring a heartbreaking finish to the 2019 campaign with a last-second 29-28 loss to Lafayette Central Catholic in the Class 1A state championship game, they saw their dream of making it back to the title affair end a year ago with a setback to eventual state champion Covenant Christian in the sectional final.
So far this fall, nothing has gotten in the way of Indianapolis Lutheran as the offense has averaged more than 40 points a contest, while the defense has limited opponents to eight or fewer points on six occasions.
In addition to having 25 receptions for 588 yards with six touchdowns, Pasch has 11 rushes for 182 yards with three scores and also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
The three-year veteran has proven to be a force defensively as well with a team-high 129 tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
"My success cannot be attributed as just my own efforts," explained Pasch. "The coaches and the program have developed me into what and who I am today. My teammates allow me to do what I do best by being their best at what they do."
Clay has been even more effective by going 108-of-150 (72 percent) for 2,223 yards with 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has also run the ball 200 times for 1,690 yards with 29 touchdowns.
Not bad totals for a talented athlete who lined up on the outside as a wide receiver until this fall.
"Taking on the role as quarterback this year was a big challenge for me," recalled Clay, who replaced all-state choice Blake White. "I've always been a running back, wide receiver, or a defensive back, so I didn't have to worry about much besides who I was blocking or what route I had to run. Now, I must know everybody's job and that has been a big change for me.
"One thing that I believe everyone was wondering, was if I was going to be able to throw the ball and function as an actual quarterback. At the beginning of the summer, if you would have told me that I would have 2,000 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards, I would've laughed. I would've said 'maybe the rushing yards and touchdowns.' I take pride in how I play, and I'm very thankful for the abilities that I have."
Someone who had confidence in Clay's ability all along was Indianapolis Lutheran head coach Dave Pasch, who also happens to be Jake's father.
"Montasi Clay is as much a son to me as any player could be," said Coach Pasch. "I have a close friendship with his father, and that has carried over to our family's relationship. As a result of our personal relationship, he carries a different expectation for his approach, of which he has far exceeded.
"He is a freak athlete that can do nearly anything asked of a player. He has grown to be an intelligent competitor who is willing to sacrifice for the vision of the team."
The four-year starter Clay has special admiration for his bosses as well.
"It feels good knowing that you are a part of a great program that is all about each other and winning together," Clay said. "In fact, what I think makes Lutheran a successful program is our coaching staff and the time, and the effort they put in for us to be always at our best."
Getting the chance to work closely with his son has certainly been rewarding for Dave Pasch.
"Jake Pasch is one of the best football players that I have ever coached," explained Coach Pasch. "He is selfless in everything he does. He has been a kid who plays the game with physicality and a tremendous desire to win.
"He is always focused on team first and fulfilling his role to make everyone successful. He embodies everything that we believe Lutheran football to be."
Having grown up around the game, Jake knows a thing or two about the Lutheran program.
"It's nothing new, as someone who has witnessed lived the last 14 years of the program with my family," said Jake Pasch "Winning just becomes part of the expectation. Having the family aspect built into each day of football constantly reminds me of the legacy that they built and the responsibility that I have to the expectation. I think this can be true for many people at Lutheran who want to preserve and grow that legacy as there is a special investment made to the school and our community."
Both players have also excelled in the classroom with Jake Pasch accumulating a 4.4 grade-point average, while Clay has a 3.7 GPA.
Although Jake and Montasi have aspirations of playing at the next level (having both recently visited Wabash College), they first have to attend to some unfinished business.
After avenging the loss to No. 10 Covenant Christian (34-27) in the sectional finale, the top-ranked Saints turned in another impressive performance with a 42-6 decision over No. 5 Parke Heritage for their sixth regional crown.
Clay proved to be the catalyst against Parke Heritage by going 7-of-8 for 88 yards with a touchdown and running 23 times for 231 yards with four scores.
"We simply did what we have been doing all season," explained Clay. "That is taking things one week at a time, studying our opponent, and going into every game with a business-like mindset.
"To be able to play our last high school football game in Lucas Oil would definitely be an accomplishment. We have been looking forward to these last couple of weeks since our loss last year in the sectional final. The opportunity to win all the way through would be a blessing and dream come true."
Now, an opportunity to atone for all of the past disappointments awaits Indianapolis Lutheran (13-0) on November 19 when it hosts Tri (11-2) for the southern semistate crown.
"Getting another chance to win a state championship would be incredible," said Jake Pasch. "A chance to finish what the seniors two years prior had been so close to achieving is what we are striving to finish."