Friday might have been the first time the head coach of a three-time state champion admitted that he didn’t have one of his key players prepared.
Yet it happened at Ford Field in the Division 6 final — a 37-27 Ithaca win over Constantine.
When starting junior quarterback Travis Smith went out with a right shoulder injury halfway through the first quarter, Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook had a dilemma. No one else had taken more than a handful of snaps during practice the entire playoff run.
“I’d like to stand up here and tell you our backup quarterback, Logan Hessbrook, had taken a bunch of snaps and he was ready for this opportunity and he was well prepared because that’s what a good coach would say. But I’ll be honest with you, he wasn’t well prepared,” said coach Hessbrook with a chuckle about his nephew.
“That’s my fault, but I put him in there and I trusted him. And he played his heart out for us.
“I told him Travis wasn’t coming back and that we’re going to live and die with you, so just go out there and play the way you’re capable of playing.”
The defensive back filled in more than nicely. He threw for 104 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 23 times for 113 yards and two more scores to lead the Yellowjackets to their 42nd consecutive win — the sixth-longest streak in the nation.
“I definitely wasn’t prepared,” Logan Hessbrook agreed, “but with Travis going down, he was on the sideline and I went over to talk to him a couple times and he said, ‘Take what the defense gives you and do what you do.’ … I just believed in my teammates. I love them all.”
Ithaca senior Brad Martyn has started every game for the Yellowjackets during the unbeaten streak that’s spanned three seasons.
“Where ever you go everyone’s saying, ‘Great job, keep it up,’ ” Martyn said. “Everyone cares so much about us.”
Coach Hessbrook also pointed to the community support.
“The community has supported us so much over the past few years,” he said. “You saw the number of people that showed up here today. We’re a community of 3,000 people and I think we pre-sold 2,000 tickets. So just about every man, woman and child in the city of Ithaca were here today.”
Carrying the load of such a streak could be nerve-wracking for young men. But Logan Hessbrook said that’s not a problem.
“We feel a little bit more comfortable and we try to play with a chip on our shoulders,” he said. “We tried to do that tonight and we got it done.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on the field already,” he added about next season. “I think everyone understands we’ve got such a big target on our backs now, and everyone’s going to want to come out and get us. We’ll just have to prepare every day like we did this year, and hopefully get what we want.”