It was backup quarterback Logan Hessbrook who helped lead the Ithaca Yellowjackets to a win in the Division 6 state championship game over Constantine at Ford Field in Detroit.
But it was junior Travis Smith who led the Yellowjackets to that position and has been instrumental in a dominant stretch of football that has seen 42 consecutive victories.
After making last year’s Dream Team as a defensive back while also leading Ithaca to a state title at quarterback, Smith is the Lansing State Journal Offensive Player of the Year. He accounted for 53 touchdowns and almost 3,400 yards of total offense this fall.
“He played so well all year and played with so much poise and really did a nice job of making decisions with the football,” Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook said. “It’s so unfortunate the way it ended for him personally.”
Smith went out on Ithaca’s second offensive play of the Division 6 state championship game after taking a helmet hit to his shoulder.
“I knew something was wrong with my shoulder,” Smith said. “Our trainer said I could probably be back in in a few series, so that got me a little excited, but it never healed up or got better.”
Smith slightly separated his acromioclavicular joint and his top two ribs popped out of place, pinching the muscles in his shoulder and causing contusions.
“I was so pumped to go in and lead the team down the field for a touchdown to tie it up and the second play I went down,” Smith said. “It was just very frustrating sitting on the sideline knowing I couldn’t go back in.”
But the setback will drive Smith that much more as he comes back for his senior year, hoping to lead Ithaca to a fourth straight state title after accounting for more than 100 touchdowns his first two seasons on varsity.
“It’s going to be a huge motivator and every time I’m working out I’ll be thinking about that and in the offseason whenever it gets hard,” Smith said. “Knowing I didn’t get to play in the state championship as a junior is going to push me that much harder as a senior to get back there.”
Colleges will also be watching. Smith said he has heard from Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Missouri, Duke and several Mid-American Conference schools. Alabama has also requested his game film.
“He was very focused on getting to work right away as soon as he gets healthy and he’s bound and determined to get us to where we were,” Hessbrook said. “I really think this will make him stronger and more hungry.”