ITHACA – In a Division 6 regional championship game on Friday night, Ithaca made its game against Laingsburg look clinical in a 34-10 win.
But when the program has been to the state semifinals for seven straight seasons, things often look simple for the Yellowjackets.
“It’s very special. Not everybody gets to say that they’ve won seven straight regional championships,” senior quarterback Jacob Smith said. “We’ve built that up here at Ithaca and it’s very special to be a part of.”
The 24-point win was Ithaca’s narrowest margin of the season.
The Yellowjackets (12-0) opened up the scoring with a touchdown, but Laingsburg (8-4) tied things up with a pass to Cole Blankenship on a fake punt that went for a score.
Ithaca outscored the Wolfpack 27-3 from there. Smith had a pair of TD runs and hit Spence DeMull for an 18-yard score. Jonah Loomis added a TD run while carrying the ball 17 times for 111 yards on the night.
While the Ithaca offense was held below 40 points for just the second time in 12 games this season, the Yellowjacket defense held a Laingsburg rushing attack, that featured 240-pound senior Kevin Koenig, to six yards for the game.
“That was a major concern coming in,” Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook said. “Our defense has been lights out all year. They’ve been very strong against the run.”
“We looked at it like a tree. We had to chop it down with an axe and that’s how we got him down,” said Loomis, who also plays on the defensive line.
Laingsburg coach Brian Borgman’s team had faced a physical defense in Pewamo-Westphalia earlier in the season in CMAC play, but felt Ithaca’s unit presented a different but equally difficult challenge.
“That’s the fastest defense we’ve played against all year,” Borgman said. “Just faster at every position. We knew that we weren’t going to be able to run around them. We were going to try to run through them and we were missing some linemen so that made that really difficult. … These guys just run sideline to sideline with so much speed.”
Laingsburg could not collect their third straight road playoff win. The Wolfpack had previously beaten Burton Bendle and Montrose to win their first district title since 2008.
Borgman was pleased with his team’s postseason run after finishing fourth in league play. The Wolfpack had missed the playoffs twice with a 5-4 record in the past four years.
“I’m so excited that we were able to get that monkey off our back,” Borgman said of the program getting back in the postseason after the four-year absence. “For a team that’s never won a conference title, never won any actual hardware, and to win a district title, no one can say that about us anymore. That gives us so much to build on.”
Ithaca will play Traverse City St. Francis next weekend in the Division 6 state semifinals while looking to advance to their sixth consecutive state in championship game.