When Ithaca raised the Division 6 state championship trophy last year at Ford Field in Detroit, there was a celebration for back-to-back titles for the Yellowjackets.
But the focus soon shifted to how much Ithaca would have coming back as they aimed at three in a row this year.
“When the playoffs ended last year, you ended on such a high, you can’t wait to get to that level of play again,” Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook said.
The Yellowjackets, who returned 13 starters including star quarterback Travis Smith, are once again on the verge of a championship and will face Constantine in the Division 6 final at 4:30 p.m. today.
Ithaca defeated Constantine 42-14 in last year’s state final.
“We’ve seen a lot of teams over the last couple of years that have wanted a shot at us,” Hessbrook said. “The intensity is going to be very, very high. … It’s going to be an absolute battle right from the opening kickoff. They have the revenge factor going.”
“Just knowing that we could win another state championship and it being a state championship game gets us pumped,” Smith said. “I know they’re going to be wanting revenge, but we’re going to be pumped as a team and I think we’re going to be able to match that.”
Ithaca (13-0) will lay their 41 game winning streak on the line in the contest and will try to finish off a third straight perfect season.
It’s a streak that’s mentioned every week after every win, but the poise and maturity up and down the roster has allowed the Yellowjackets to think about winning one game in a row as opposed to how many they’ve racked up in succession.
“We talk about the next game and that’s the most important game you play. I know that’s kind of cliché, but we keep our focus on the task at hand,” Hessbrook said. “Our players are very mature. They don’t talk about the streak. They don’t walk around like a bunch of world beaters. We have a very mature football team that knows you can be beat at any time. I’ve been so pleased with their intensity and focus level.”
“Usually we just let the media and the community play up the win streak,” Smith said. “We don’t think about it that much we just think about our opponent and just prepare for that team.”
As impressive as the last two seasons have been, along with the 2009 team that lost in the Division 6 semifinals and finished 11-2, the 2012 Yellowjackets have the potential to raise the bar.
They’re 13 points away from setting a new school record for points in a season, potentially passing a 2010 team that averaged over 46 points per game.
If the Yellowjackets allow fewer than 17 points, they’ll post the second-lowest points allowed total in an Ithaca season since 1985.