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The Miraculous Comeback of Jake Breitbach

The Miraculous Comeback of Armstrong's Jake Breitbach
Posted on 09/18/2019
Armstrong High School Football Quarterback Jake BreitbachWritten by John Milea, Minnesota State High School League; Reposted with permission;  Updated 9/5/2019

Ask Jake Breitbach what he has gone through in the last five months and he may reply with this simple statement: "It was kind of miraculous."

The senior quarterback at Robbinsdale Armstrong is not embellishing. It is indeed quite astonishing, if not an absolute medical miracle, that he is on the field this fall. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the Falcons' final game of the basketball season, had surgery on March 27 and was told to forget about his final year of high school football. Yet, there he was five weeks after surgery, taking snaps and tossing darts when the Falcons opened the season on Aug. 29 with a 21-0 victory over Spring Lake Park.

And Thursday night at Hopkins, Breitbach was instrumental in a 37-11 win. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 220 yards and touchdowns of 4 and 42 yards to Thai Bowman. In two games, Breitbach has completed 27 of 42 for 365 yards and five scores (with no interceptions) for the Falcons, who are ranked eighth in this week's Associated Press Class 5A poll.

"I've never been 2-0 in my high school career, so this feels great,” he said.

There may have been a bit of concern when Jake seemed slightly gimpy at one point during Thursday’s game. It wasn’t his knee, thankfully.

“My knee felt really good, I just kind of tweaked my groin,” he said, wearing a big postgame smile. “I'll be fine tomorrow.”

Breitbach took off running – of his own volition -- during the Falcons’ opening drive; he finished with two carries for 10 yards.

“We’re being very safe with him, and a big part of his game is running,” coach Jack Negen said. “So when we call run stuff for him, he’s dynamic. He's campaigning (to run more).”

In his third year as a starter, Breitbach now wears a knee brace as a precaution. That sure is a better scenario than standing on the sidelines as a spectator.

Negen was in the gym when Jack was hurt during a playoff loss to Wayzata, and “My heart was in my stomach,” he said.

“When it happened I just kind of figured that was it. I was hoping there would be a way we could at least suit him up and have him come out and be with us, just be a part of the team. He’s been such a huge part of our program.”

Breitbach, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 185 pounds, had a strong junior season. He threw for 18 touchdowns and ran for 15, completing 120 of 227 passes for 1,703 yards and rushing 147 times for 885 yards.

“He's the only high school kid that I've seen who knows how to run an RPO (run-pass option) correctly,” said Hopkins coach John DeHartog. “He has the maturity that you need to be able to do that correctly. Not many kids possess that.

“He's a great athlete and he's a great kid. I'm wishing him the best and it's a neat story.”

To say Jake is excited about his once-in-doubt senior season is an understatement. Armstrong has eight offensive starters back and six on defense. The Falcons went 4-5 last season, losing in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs before moving to 5A this season.

“We're good,” he said. “We have lots of potential. If we just play the way I know we can, it's going to be hard to stop us.”

That's quite a turnaround from the bleak initial prognosis about his recovery period.

“The doctor was like, ‘This is around 10 months, that's where it usually is. Maybe less, maybe more.’ He said, ‘No football.’ That was pretty sad.”

For the first couple of months after surgery, Jake was unable to do anything physical until beginning physical therapy twice a week.

“And at first, it was just normal. But then I realized I was progressing pretty quickly,” he said. “At that point we hadn't really talked about timelines, but I was assuming football was out and I would try and get back for basketball season. After a while we started talking about going to the surgeon to see where I'm at. And that was when he said, ‘You know, maybe you do have a shot at playing football.’ And that was pretty exciting.”

He was given the OK to play a few days before the season opener. With an offer from Bemidji State already in hand, Breitbach is hoping to attract additional attention from college coaches.

“He’s spectacular,” Negen said. “I’ve been coaching for 26 years and it’s fair to say he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever coached, because of all the intangibles. There are guys who might have a better arm, though he’s really good there. It’s the ‘It’ factor; he’s confident, he plays fast, he’s competitive, he’s fun, he treats all the kids great. He’s spectacular. I’ve never seen one better.”

--Follow John Milea on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.